Reference Checks are Not Enough

As an executive recruiter, with over a decade of experience, I use to believe that the greatest predictor of future success was past performance. I used to tell applicants that most organisations want to know what they are getting into when hiring a new employee, and no company wants to take a ‘punt’ on an unknown new hire.

Now I realise that belief was mostly flawed.

Reference Checks are used as the final decision making check box. How often do we hear employers offering roles subject to reference checks? Could you imagine saying that, then pulling a job offer based on a negative reference check?

However, when have you ever really given a brutally honest reference check about one of your employees? I remember the most brutal, the most honest and the most negative feedback that I had ever given about a former employee, I simply said “I’d rather not answer that question”.

Some past employers are overtly worried about what they might say about a former employee and how that might come back to them. Most employers are more concerned about the ramifications of negative feedback, then helping a poor performer find new employment.

After all, how much of your own decision making do you want to transition to someone you don’t know, about a (potential) employee that you’ve never worked with, about a job they don’t do anymore, in a company that they no longer work for? After all, they no longer work there for a reason.

No two companies are alike, all have varying degrees of culture and climate, so it becomes very difficult to ask a former manager if your applicant was a good employee. Perhaps they didn’t flourish in that environment and your company might be the perfect place for them.

If a flower doesn’t grow, you don’t throw it out, you tend the soil, you give it water, food, sunlight. It’s the same for employees.

Reference checks are flawed because they;

1.) Are Subjective: They rely on the, sometimes personal, relationship between a former manager and employee,

2.) Rely on Poor Communication: Usually on the phone, distractions, disjointed questioning, and

3.) Usually Lack Trust: Speaking to someone you’ve never met, on a phone across town, who knows nothing about you.

Whilst we still do the reference checks as a minor part of the process, what I now know to be the greatest predictor of future success is Social + Emotional Intelligence.

Social + Emotional Intelligence is the ability to be aware of our own emotions, and those of others – in the moment – and to use that information to manage ourselves and manage our relationships.

Emotional Intelligence is not a ‘soft skill’ or a warm and fuzzy type of thing that’s a nice to have but isn’t really essential for Success. The Harvard Business Review states that Emotional intelligence is “the key to professional success”. Stephen Covey, author of ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, famously states “Research shows convincingly that EQ is many times more important (than IQ) in leadership roles”.

At People Builders, we believe that including an assessment of Social + Emotional Intelligence is more way important than reviewing job competence and undertaking reference checks alone.

Having a mechanism to truly understand your new hire, can help you ensure their success, and Social + Emotional Intelligence, unlike IQ, can be improved over time.

We are all unique in our profiles, not to mention our motivations, goals, and passions.  The best SEI improvement plans harness the energy you feel for your meaning and purpose to strengthening the competencies that will help you fulfil that deeper aim. It’s a win for you and for them.

No reference check can truly measure the four aspects of EI:

> Self-awareness: Knowing one’s internal states, preferences, resources, and intuition

> Self-management: Managing ones’ internal states, impulses, and resources

> Social awareness: Awareness of other’s feelings, needs, and concerns

Relationship management: Adeptness at inducing desirable responses in others

Simply; what we know about ourselves and others; and what we do with that information.

So, by all means, call the former manager and ask a couple of clarifying questions. Did they work there between these dates, was this their role, how big was their budget, how many staff reported to them? And so on. At People Builders we still do them however please do not ask a manger about the employee’s attitude, behaviours or emotions. Let the Social + Emotional Intelligence Profile speak to you.

To learn more about how you can use Social + Emotional Intelligence, to increase your success in Executive Recruitment, click HERE.

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