31 Jul 2014

I’m obsessed with ‘due diligence’ in recruitment as many of my colleagues will testify. Reference checking has always been known as one of the least reliable predictors of future performance. Plus, it is not always done very well. But recently I came across a trap that had never occurred to me before. HR manager in employing company is reference checking a candidate. The referee spoke glowingly of the candidate – and it was all true. In particular he stressed how proactive she was and the extent to which she innovated and used her initiative. She got the job.

Problem was, the employing company did not like people who did not conform to their status quo. They found initiative intrusive and described it as ‘inappropriate’ at one stage. Thy just DID NOT GET THAT FROM THE INFORMATION FROM THE REFERENCE CHECK THAT EMPLOYEE WOULD NOT SUIT THEIR COMPANY CULTURE. That employment relationship lasted 4 months – that’s right – 4 months after which the employee left in a mediated settlement.

Moral of this story. Let me teach you how to reference check. A great reference may not always suit your culture.