Should you hire someone with a bad reference?
I interviewed two candidates recently. One of the candidates really out shined the other. This person was quick to answer all my questions intelligently, seemed really passionate about the role and had the right amount of experience. However, when I followed up with their references, one of the former employees described the candidate as undependable. Capability and dependability are very important for this role. Would you still hire this person despite the bad reference?
I personally had this difficulty about 1 year ago: a fantastic, well presented, enthusiastic person with the right experience wanting the role on offer. Perfect interview and first 2 references were glowing. They were so perfect, I felt like I should check that third one just in case. He was not happy with the employee at all. Didn't say much but spoke volumes. Decided to sleep on it, then hired her the next day. She is one of the best employees I've ever had and that third reference wasn't worth the salt shaker his words came out of. Some references really are just salty, dishonest backstabbers.
To go to your specific experience, did you ask for clarification on what the reference meant to be dependable? Each business has its own definition of dependable. For some its purely if the staff member attends their shifts on time and in full. For others, it's agreeing to copious overtime and canceling on family plans and holidays to work their days off, providing work outside of the scope of their position for free, etc.
When discussing "areas for improvement" such as dependability regarding a candidate, I like to discuss it as if the candidate practically already has the job. Phrasing such as "as candidates future manager, what is their main area of opportunity I should prepare for, and what methods have you found effective in getting the best out of the candidate in that area". It has thus far been 100% effective in weeding out references that cared about the training and ongoing success of their staff member and which ones were just bad-mouthing. It also helped know what their area of opportunity was and how to train them in that.
Hope this helps.
1) I would only hire them with a well defined probationary period. If you think the second candidate we ok, possibly just go with them.
2) Everyone should understand that when you are called to give a reference on a prior employee you may be open to liable for your "opinion". If you have document that you fired them for theft, that's one thing but "not dependable" that's another. For this reason you should only be able to find out if they were terminated for cause and if they are eligible for rehire. This could be state to state and perhaps no longer true. (HR Professionals please comment)
The undependable moniker may reflect the candidate's unhappiness in the previous role. You may want to try them out on a temporary basis to see if your gut reaction to the person is correct.
In some ways this is the mirror of not hiring someone with a great reference because your gut says no.
We interviewed a candidate who is really perfect and suitable with organization. Almost everyone wanted to hire him. When I did the reference check, everything was perfect. But, the problem started when I asked " Is there anything you would like to add about the candidate?". And the person reply " an incident where the candidate had an emotional lash out at work (threw his phone) after a phone call with his wife negatively affected his mood". Then everyone decided we will not hire him. Please make any comment on this.
You didn't mention what the job was, but as someone who has hired a lot of sales and marketing personnel in their past career - sometimes when they sound too good to be true sometimes they are. Many times due to most having an outgoing personality - they can interview very well and are very personable, so it is important to look at other factors.
I am not sure how you got the reference to call, but we all know that most people provide references of where there was a positive experience, so if they provided the reference that it turned out poorly, I would question it even more as it tells you the person is not very in tune with what people think about them. On the other hand, if you were checking based off just a list of past employers and they didn't provide - you can find sometimes there is sour grapes in employer/employee relationships and could be a personal issue with that person. I would definitely have that as a potential issue.
If you really were keen on the person, there is one other step you can look into. There are companies (HR) that offer some additional type of checking which have "testing" questions which offer some further insight into the person and their personality which found were quite insightful as it is how they handle situations and is hard to "trick" as they are psychology tests.
Someone below said go with your gut and is what I find usually works best. If the other 2 references were fabulous and one bad and everything else was good versus a mediocre hire - you could still hire them and manage their 90 day probationary period looking for signs. If that one reference really started making you question the rest - then I would trust my gut there as well.
That is a good question and concern, but I would weigh all facts, and even ask them candidate why it could have been the environment, or personal issues, and if they are valid response, then it is up to you to make the decision if it would work for you.
It's a good question, and here's why. Sometimes a bad reference is nothing more than a bad attitude expressed on a bad day which can color perception and response. It's also interesting that the candidate listed that particular person as a reference if knowing that it might jeopardize his chances of getting hired.
The reference could be mistaken, confusing one former employee with another or the employee may have been unknowingly subjected to blackmail and is now being blackballed to prevent further hire.
That said, consider looking more closely into the matter. Ask the candidate what it was like working for the company and specify the person referred.
Perhaps the incidents referred to were real and correctly assessed. But was the lack of dependability a purely circumstantial situation? Perhaps a family obligation preventing the employee from availability. Performance impacting health issues or other handicaps. Most important is to determine whether the contributing factors have changed. This can be easily ascertained if more recent references are favorable.
A tip: Make sure your most favorable candidates understand the business process and marketing strategies. Those who have an appreciation of the business itself are most likely to make it shine. That said, take the time to review your companies business plan. If the company does not have one suggest writing one complete with mission statement, company objectives, and business process. Use the business plan to orient new hires and identify the kind of performance that achieves stated objectives. As a business plan archivist, it's my pleasure to assist. Please see my profile for more information.
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I am a contractor. A contractor is employment at will. You can fire me at anytime without reason, and I can leave at any time without reason. I never give references. I give them an offer. Hire me for 3 month trial basis. If you don't like my work you pay me minimum wage. But if you do like my work you pay me the full market rate for my services. I have never been let go without out being extended beyond the first three months. My first job was only for a 3 month contract. they asked me to stay for 2 years. Other jobs i ended up working for 13 years. But, I alway start with a 3 month temporary contract. They alway ask me to stay. It;s what I say that counts. It's what I do day to day that shows dependability, and reliability. They always ask me to start working the next day. The trend these days is to outsource your work to a contractor so you don't have to make a permanent hiring decision.
I agree with few people here. Go a little deeper in finding what caused this employee get bad reviews, why s/he did not delivered what was expected from him/her, how did s/he answered about this, how can s/he improve if similar situations come up, get to know a bout him/her through other people as well. Not all managers are good at everything and even the employee may have lost passion or interest in that project and wanted out.
Trust your instinct, if you liked the person and find s/he has potential, tell him so while sharing your main concerns on delivering results, showing organizational cultural respect and more. Good employees don't fit wherever they applied, but they can adjust their profiles when they find an open manager and professional figure they want to support.
Tell about your impressions of his skills and knowledge but also expressing your concerns, let the negotiation goes, let him/her talk, it is interesting seeing how do these conversations ended up. Reviewing together employee performance is a topic present in these conversations and helps keeping your eyes open.
Ms Brandie, its ok to hire him. He did well in the interview. Regarding the capability and dependability, every job has this requirement and many of us don't fit the bill. Even without references, you can interview them. You have also stated that the reference is from a 'former employee'. This is enough to tell you why the reference has been mentioned as stated. Florence MacDonald