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California State University, Long BeachCalifornia State University, Long Beach

Telephone Reference Check

The Best Ways to Communicate with References

One on one contact is the best.

A Grain of Salt

Don't rely on written references presented to you by candidates. This method is virtually worthless. Many are written at the time of termination and, because firing a person is a very sensitive task, there may have been a tendency on the employer's part to be full of praise, with few, if any, negatives. (How many bad letters of reference have you ever seen?)

The Hard Way

Writing to companies is usually ineffective. There is little or no degree of candor, and too often such letters aren't answered even after a follow up. Also, by the time you get responses from some companies, you might lose a good potential employee.

A Satisfactory Way

The telephone gives you an opportunity to ask spontaneous questions based upon what was said in response to one of your primary questions. You can often detect enthusiasm, or lack of it, if you pay attention to the tone of voice.

The Best Way

Visiting the reference is not always practical, but when you're interested in hiring a top level executive, it's worth the effort to try to set up an appointment at the candidate's firm. This may very well produce the most candid responses and gives you the opportunity to detect nuances -- the raised eyebrows, limited eye contact, or dubious expression.