03.25.2015

Hiring? Don’t Waste That Referral Call

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Hiring is scary for a lot of reasons. First of all, most companies tend to hire at the 11th hour,

So, this habit of bringing donuts for the team: Is that every Friday or just on special occasions...and what flavors does she usually get?
So, this habit of bringing doughnuts for the team: Is that every Friday or just on special occasions…and what flavors does she usually get?

when they desperately need someone, so they’re not feeling particularly strategic. Plus, it’s a hairy process of recruiting, culling through resumes, worrying about hiring mistakes and vetting people. There are potential legal issues and just the unnerving, uncomfortable feeling of evaluating one another. Still, it’s something that’s got to be done right. A bad hire can cost up to 1.5 times salary. So let’s say your hire earns $100,000. When you calculate all it costs to recruit that candidate, ramp him up, get him trained and acclimated and vested with benefits and so forth, then you have to possibly pay a severance package and do it all again in six months or a year, that’s up to $150,000 out the window. Not invested, wasted. Plus there’s the damage that can be done to your team and your customer relationships when the wrong person is working with you. So how do you ensure you’ve got the right person? One way is to be smart about referral calls.

A lot of people don’t seem to know how to actually use referrals. They’ll call up the candidate’s referral and ask cookie cutter, closed questions:

• What’s her worst trait?
• What’s her best trait?
• Is she a team player?
• Can she communicate?

You may as well ask her favorite color and what she usually has for lunch. That’s not the way to use a referral. You’ve got someone on the phone who presumably has the knowledge and clearance to speak candidly about your candidate. So tell that referrer what the job responsibilities will be and what kind of work environment it is. Share important things like how much autonomy or supervision the candidate will have, what the reward system is like and what the expectations are for things like teamwork and accountability. This is stuff you should have already talked to the candidate about so it’s not like you’re giving away state secrets.

As you share this information, ask whether the referrer thinks the candidate would thrive in that environment, why or why not? It’s not going to be good for either you or the candidate if you make a mistake, so you might as well be thorough.

To find out about the candidate’s communication skills, ability to work within a team and ability to multi-task or handle competing deadlines or changes or problems, you need to ask for real-life examples that demonstrate it:

  • Please describe a situation in which the candidate had to make a decision in a crisis with limited information.
  • Can you give me an example of a time in which the candidate needed to discipline an employee, the circumstances around it and how they handled it?
  • Can you recall a time when the candidate had to build communication bridges with a variety of people with very different communication styles?

Now you are going to get somewhere in understanding her abilities and skills.

Here’s the real planning part though, before you make this call, you have to know the truth about your organization so you can share it with the referral. Have you thoroughly thought out the job description? Have you spent time analyzing what your organizational culture is and how it works? You can’t make a match if you’re operating on half-truths about what your company is really like. If you misrepresent your company, unwittingly, to that referrer, the call won’t be worth much.

A great hire can be the catalyst for growth of a company. A bad hire is a frustration, an expense and a potential lawsuit. Don’t just go sticking your ad up on the job boards. Think about it first. That adage of measure twice, cut once goes double for building an organization.

We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business, with offices in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. Contact me at Caroline@valentinehr.com or call (512) 420-8267.

We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business, with offices in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. Contact me at Caroline@valentinehr.com or call (512) 420-8267.