Internal References for Potential Outside Candidates… Are They Accurate?

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

Every time I contact a candidate for a client company they say “who is the company you are working with on the search?” After I tell them they say, “Oh, great, I know someone over there. They will give me a good reference. ” Then… I cringe.

WHY…when it’s great to have a mutual party that knows a prospective candidate so you don’t make a hiring mistake?

Because in the 16 years we’ve been in business I have seldom received a good reference from someone who has worked with one of our potential candidates in the past. We’ve been analyzing this issue and would love to hear from anyone with more information on the subject.

It seems that most internal references for a candidate they’ve worked with in the past were peripheral relationships. They said hello in the hallway, or worked in a different department or even a different territory and only saw the candidate at corporate functions.

In almost every situation the internal reference was not involved in the management of the candidate previously or had access to their achievements but knew them on a personal level and not usually very well. It was a casual relationship and the internal reference felt the candidate wouldn’t fit the new employer.

Was it because the candidate knew the internal reference and probably would bring bad information concerning their performance if hired? Was it because they just couldn’t say, “I didn’t have any involvement with the candidate in their previous work role so I really shouldn’t comment?”

Again, any feedback based on your experience is appreciated.


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