Thursday, August 6, 2009

Talent Selection QC: Truth Serum for Hiring & Proof Of Concept

Over the last 18 years in executive recruiting, I've learned that corporate executives and human resources managers don't always have time to conduct thorough reference checks of finalist candidates for positions.  I've long believed that detailed, thorough reference checks with key managers, peers, and subordinates (not the friends and family references provided) are crucial to validating critical skills, qualifications, psychological profiles, and interview feedback assumptions.  

At the bottom of this post, you'll find an email from a candidate validating TopGrading author, Brad Smart's, assertion below that merely the threat of a detailed reference check can flush out a problem candidate.  Actually checking the references is an invaluable wealth of information not only for talent selection validation, but also for understanding how past managers and colleagues have worked effectively with an individual.


To listen to this Topgrading Tip, 
Click Here

Every hiring manager knows reference checks are generally worthless. The problem is that companies prohibit managers from taking reference calls for fear that if managers say something negative about former employees and those former employees are rejected from jobs, they might sue their former employer.  Candidates know it, so they submit references who are buddies.  

Readers familiar with Topgrading know our "truth serum" works at mid-to-upper levels, where reference checks are done, and in this article I'm pleased to announce 3 new revisions that add to its truth serum power.

But what about lower levels, where reference checks aren't done?  This article describes the Checkster approach, which is effective and inexpensive.  Both approaches have powerful "truth serum" that motivates candidates to tell you the whole truth.

Threat of Reference Check (TORC Technique).  Topgraders all know that candidates are told, from the very first interaction, that in order to get a job offer THEY will eventually have to arrange personal reference calls with bosses (and others).  That's the "threat" of reference checks.

This scares C players away - good!  C players can't get their former bosses to talk to you and C players wouldn't want you to talk with them anyway.  Twenty-five years of experience confirms that high performers CAN get their former bosses to talk and are happy to make the arrangements.

There are several 2009 updates to the Topgrading Career History Form.  As you can see in the Instructions page (below), candidates are told that there are 3 reasons for their having to arrange personal reference calls with bosses: 

Understand that if you are applying for a job with a different employer, before a final job offer, you will probably be asked to arrange personal reference calls with bosses (and others).  There are three reasons we ask you to do this:

a)    Your development.  Candid, confidential insights of bosses and others can be used to help you move smoothly into the next job and can help you create a powerful Individual Development Plan. 
b)    Verification.  Confidential reference calls with bosses and others will add credibility to the information you have provided throughout the hiring process.
c)    Ease.  It's difficult for us to get former bosses and others to talk with us, but high performers CAN arrange for those personal discussions.

And by the way, Topgraders provide thorough developmental coaching to new hires, so the first justification - development of the person - is not a ploy, it's for real!

The latest version of the Topgrading Career History Form includes two other revisions:  1. estimated boss ratings on the 6 competencies most indicative of high performers, and 2. a statement of what they consider the ideal next job.  All three revisions make sense, right?

The "truth serum" is, of course, the awareness on the part of candidates that THEY will be arranging calls with bosses, so they don't want to be caught hyping positives and hiding negatives.  So, all candidates (not just the high performers) tell the truth.  (High performers tell the truth; trouble is, before the "truth serum" it was hard for employers ... that would be you ... to figure out which glowing career accounts were true or false.)


Now, here's an email that we recently received from a potential GM/VP candidate for a position after discussing our intent to interview his references (I've changed the names for confidentiality):

I owe you an apology because I have not been totally up front with you. You asked me what would some of my (Fortune200Co) Managers would say about me. I told you what I hoped they would say based on my productivity but, the fact of the matter is I was forced to resign from 
(Fortune200Co), not because I was unproductive but because I was dishonest and took matters into my own hands and misused my authority.
I was promised a bonus and raise if I performed and met my numbers of which I did, this deal was offered to me by XXX XXXXX a Senior VP, my immediate managers XXXXX XXXXXXX and XXX XXXXXXXXX were not aware of this offer and they felt like they were betrayed and I went around their back so they rescinded it. I was angry and felt betrayed and I began to use one of the credit cards I was entrusted with for personal use. I was wrong and made several bad decisions because I did not just do this once. 
During an internal audit my inappropriate behavior surfaced and I was asked to repay the total amount that I abused and resign. During the following years I have interviewed for several great positions of which I was honest about why I left 
(Fortune200Co), it has cost me some jobs and it should because I deserve whatever repercussions that follow. That's why I need to be honest with you so you are not surprised. I have not made any unethical or immoral decisions since this incident and this behavior was so out of character for me. I think the hardest thing I had to do was explain this behavior to my wife, two children and my parents, they did not condone my behavior and I have been trying to prove myself ever since. 
So, I think I should remove myself for consideration, I 'm sure there are more worthy and competent candidates.
Thank you for the consideration,

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