Referencing in the Recruiting World

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Written by: Mark Rowbottom
President of Recruiters of Wisconsin

The purpose of this handout is to go over the 5 “W’s” of referencing. Referencing is an extremely important tool that serves multiple purposes.

  • Who – You ideally want to be talking with someone who has hire/fire authority. Before calling references, check their LinkedIn profile and know something more about them outside of being the reference. Rather than co-workers or friends, people that work above the individual as Managers or Directors can provide a better insight on the individuals’ performance and gives you a more credible reference.
  • What – When you call individuals and leave messages asking for a return call, they are rarely returned. However, references are different— people do call back! Human nature is such that co-workers and former bosses want to “help” people they have been close to. There is a benefit to them both intrinsically and externally.
  • When/Why – Doing references before you present your candidate will set you apart from other recruiters. Few of our clients even bother with references, especially if we have already provided them. This not only makes us stand out from other agencies, but also expedites the process of obtaining an offer.

How – Prepare the person giving the reference before you delve in about the candidate. Make sure they have adequate time for your call, if they do not schedule an appointment. During the reference, let the caller know you will be taking notes, so there may be some “quiet time”. You may also want to inform them about how long the call should take as well. Allow the reference to expound on the individual strengths. Paraphrase comments back for affirmation and greater embellishment. Ask questions as they come-up and have some flexibility in your form to make for a smoother conversation. Set the tone- this referencing is an important part of a successful search. This is likely a first impression opportunity for you and your firm. Create an attachable reference form you can email as well. You may find that references will complete this form and return it to you if they do not have time for a conversation.
  • Closure – Thank the reference on behalf of the individual, you, and your firm. Use your LinkedIn knowledge to develop additional rapport with whom you spoke with. Confirm their e-mail address and phone number. Let them know that the reference is for our records, but may be shared with a potential employer and if it would be okay for them to contact them to corroborate the reference.

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