The “References Checks Are A Waste Of Time” Myth:

Many sales managers and business development officers find that checking an applicants references is a futile activity. They say to themselves, “why should I waste my time calling the references given to me by a candidate for a sales position, when it is obvious that the applicants only list people on their resume that will give them a positive recommendation”. So, they talk themselves out of employing one of the most effective screening tools available to them.

Those supervisors who do take the time to call references, often run into a brick wall in today’s litigious society. Many businesses executives won’t allow employees to give out employment information beyond the bare facts of dates employed. This problem also cuts down on the number of managers using references to effectively screen candidates.

Calling an applicant’s references can be your most valuable tool in the hiring process, if you simply applying two proven screening techniques:

1. Don’t say you are checking references. Instead, say something like, “I’m calling about (candidates name). Our firm gives extensive training to new employees. Your opinion, would be appreciated, on the type of training we should give (candidates first name) to help (him or her) succeed as a (position).”

2. Next, ask the person given as a reference for the names of two or three other supervisors or co- workers in the company who could help you determine the best training possible to help your candidate succeed. Asking a reference for additional references, can help you to talk with people who have not been prescreened by your candidate.

When you call the reference’s reference, use the same screening technique outlined in paragraph one above. These references are usually more objective in their comments, as they give you advice about your candidate’s training needs.

Checking references is not easy. The process is time consuming and at times difficult. However, this method is a far superior to hiring someone based on your interview alone--then hoping the candidate works out. This is the approach used by most sales managers today. The expense of having to start the hiring process all over again in a month or two, due to issues that would have come to light using the reference screening process outlined above, makes calling references well worth your time.


VIRDEN J. THORNTON is the founder and President of The $elling Edge®, Inc. a 23 year old firm specializing in sales, customer relations, personal coaching and management training and development. Clients have included Sears Optical, Eastman Kodak, IBM, Deloitte & Touché, Bank One, Jefferson Pilot, and Wal-Mart to name a few. Virden is the author of Prospecting: The Key To Sales Success, Organizing For Sales Success, 101 Sales Management Myths, A Realtor's Success Formula, and two ...

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