Do Reference Checks Really Matter?

These are some of the many things Graham Duncan, investor and chairman of the Sohn Conference Foundation and chairman emeritus of East Rock Capital LLC, thinks about reference checks for job candidates. Venture capitalist Ben Casnocha recently summarized his discussion with Duncan in a LinkedIn post.

I have no doubt that Duncan’s method of reference-checking works. Undoubtedly, he can hire great people by placing a tremendous weight on references. But the problems this method cause aren’t worth the rewards.

The underlying problem with references

Duncan believes he can find out more about a person by asking someone else than by asking the candidate. This tells me that he assumes that candidates lie and that references tell the truth.

To keep reading, click here: Do Reference Checks Really Matter?

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4 thoughts on “Do Reference Checks Really Matter?

  1. Great article! Reference checks – just a box to check. Is a candidate really going to provide me with a reference who would give them a bad review? At my org, we always take them with a grain of salt. I recently received a reference request for a former colleague through a survey-type link. I did some Google searching to see if it was legit and came upon a Reddit thread where a job seeker was saying they were just going to give a friend’s contact info and have them pose as a former manager. I wonder how often this has happened while performing reference checks? Probably at least a few times. Very little value add, in my opinion. And the 45 minute reference check? Who has time for that on either side of the call? Ha!

    1. It’s probably especially easy with how some companies set up their phone systems now. You could call the main line of a company instead of the number provided by the candidate and determine if said former manager existed on the phone tree. But I worked at a startup where if you wanted a company line you had to create a Google Voice account. I actually ended up keeping the number when I left.

      I sometimes worry that a reference checker will be put off if I only supply my old manager’s cell phone number. The company doesn’t really have a “main line” still and the official number is an 800 number primarily for sales calls. I just hope this doesn’t come up.

  2. The problem with references, at least with regard to former supervisors, is that you are, if the candidate left voluntarily, talking to a party/person/former employer that has already found to be lacking, at least from the candidate’s perspective. Otherwise, the candidate would still be employed with them. Why would you base any decisions on opinions from someone who wasn’t good enough for the candidate? If they weren’t good enough for the candidate, why should their opinion be good enough for you?

  3. I always ask for the hiring manager’s resume and three references from people who have worked with this manager in the past. I’m not risking my career on an unknown.

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