Reference checks are one of the most critical ways to validate the traits and performance abilities of a potential sales hire (see The Importance of Reference Checks in Sales Hiring). Unfortunately many companies make up their mind to hire someone and then perform only cursory reference checks or, surprisingly often, none at all.
Most sales people, even the poor performers, are often able to come up with what appear to be good references. Here are the three biggest pitfalls that will prevent a hiring manager from getting useful insight from a reference check:
- Not speaking to former managers – Many sales people will provide peers, customers, and indirect bosses who can’t effectively speak directly to what it was like to employ the sales person and their specific habits and behaviors.
- Only checking one reference – Candidates will usually provide their three best references who have likely been coached to say complimentary things. A wise hiring manager not only calls all of the provided references that are provided, but also seeks to find other people who have been exposed to the rep and can cross references answers and provide support for achievements.
- Failing to ask behavioral questions – Often reference checks involve confirming a candidate’s employment dates, attendance habits, and one or two weaknesses, but fail to key in on the specific behaviors that made the rep successful. Asking for examples where the person displayed desired behavior not only ensures some degree of honesty (because it is difficult for anyone to anticipate these kinds of questions and fabricate answers), but also gives you detailed insight into how the rep will behave if they join your team.
To make the most of your reference checks on potential hires, be sure to be thorough and avoid these reference checking pitfalls.
To your success!
Eliot received his B. Comm. from Carleton University and has been honored as a Top 40 Under 40 Award winner.
He co-authored Sales Recruiting 2.0, How to Find Top Performing Sales People, Fast and provides regular insights on sales team management and hiring on the Peak Sales Recruiting Blog.
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