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Recruitment 101: always check references
Article by Bruce Cotterill, September 2019. Bruce is a company director and advisor to business leaders.
At EQ Consultants, recruitment is a large part of our portfolio. We assist clients to find people with not only the right work skills and experience, but someone who is also a superb cultural fit into the organisation.
A large part of our recruitment is reference checking. Aligning questions to the position description to avoid the ‘cookie cutter’ approach is an important first step. Then, if a personality profile has been done, using this to structure questions to probe into any areas of concern is ideal. That way, when we are talking to referees, we’re addressing the candidate’s specific traits and how these have impacted their success – or lack of – in past roles.
The following article by Bruce Cotterill highlights this well:
‘During the last few months, I have had the opportunity to observe, from close quarters, the behaviour and performance of a recently appointed chief executive who is leading a public company. For the purposes of this article, I'll call him Peter.
The person has been around his industry for a long time and is well known. That longevity is reflected in someone who is stuck in their ways, seems to think he knows better than everyone else, and is rather out of date in his treatment of people and customers.
Most of us would expect to see a new chief executive walk into an organisation and immediately seek out his people, preferably at all levels, introduce themself, and get on with the job of listening to what they had to say. What struck me about Peter is he has sought to do the opposite.
He has run around 'like a chook with its head cut off' and started doing things, usually without reference to the people who know what does and doesn't need to be done. He is clearly not a planner. More like a 'reactionary'.
He has initiatives underway in everything from IT to HR, all of which are performing poorly and already stalling. He has a liking for preceding every personnel interaction with something like the following: "As you know, I'm the chief executive and so it's my responsibility to ...". I'm sure you get the idea.
To make matters worse, his attitude to managing people is like something from the 1980s. He shows little respect for anyone, even his more senior colleagues. In a meeting situation he will raise his voice, and he even resorts to the 'F-Bomb' in moments of purple-veined rage when not immediately getting his way.
Before meeting Peter, I decided to do a bit of fact checking. Three phone calls were all it took to build a profile of someone who shouldn't be a chief executive in 2019.
My unofficial checks revealed a character who, at their last job was nicknamed 'Peter who' by his people, because no one ever saw him. One former worker said he met him for the first time after he'd been there for nine years. At the time one of his colleagues asked who the guy was. Keep in mind, this was a company with less than 250 staff.
My brief research indicated a guy who started lots of things but never finished any of them. A person who shouted at people regularly. One of my referees even used the word 'narcissist'.