Good Hires Don't Just Happen

Every job has it's ups and downs and the downs are less frequent when you surround yourself with good people. I am pulling from the archives to remind us all that good hires don't just happen. You have to do the work.



I recall an interaction I had with a hiring manager as a young HR professional:

Me: You have to check references.

Hiring Manager: Why? He did great in the interview.

Me: Because, you have to.

Hiring Manager: No, I don't.

Me: Yes, you do. You have to know who you are hiring.

Hiring Manager: I do know who I am hiring. His name is Joe and he's a rock star.

Turns out, the hiring manager did not know Joe like he thought he knew Joe and Joe was more rock than star. Instead of an, "I told you so," as I walked the rock star out the door, the hiring manager received a not-open-for-discussion, "reference checks required."

In hindsight, I would have gotten my point across better with the hiring manager if I had taken the time to teach vs. tell but hey, I was young. I was HR.

If I were to do it again, I would share what Gilt Groupe's CEO, Kevin Ryan said about reference checks in his Harvard Business Review article, Building a Team of A Players:

"The hiring process typically has three elements: the resume, the interview and the reference check. Most managers overvalue the resume and interview and undervalue the reference check. References matter most. . . . when someone does not succeed in a job, it's generally not for lack of technical skills - it's because of intangibles that don't come up in an interview. Is he attentive to detail? Does she work well with others? How does he treat his colleagues? References are the only way to learn these things."

You don't spend $1.59 on a dozen eggs without checking each and every egg ('fess up) so how could you hire an employee for your organization without checking him for cracks?

I've griped about reference checks, too. Each time I silenced the little voice that was trying to tell me, "no," or said I said something like, "I am self-aware and a great judge of character" it backfired on me and I made a hire I later regretted.

Guess what? I am not as good a judge of the intangibles as I think I am and neither are you. Reference checks required.

Do the work. Make good hires. It's worth it.