What’s the best way to do a reference check?

Tim Sackett (President of HRU Technical Resources)
The Big Reference Check Scam!

Stop accepting references candidates give you. Instead, during the interview ask for names of their direct supervisors at every position they’ve had. Then call into those companies and talk to those people. Even with HR telling everyone “we don’t give out references,” I’ve found you can engage in some meaningful conversations off the record.

What’s the best way to do a reference check?

Boris Wertz (Founder of version one ventures)
Nine common things that start-up founders tend to underestimate or overestimate – Version One

I’m always surprised at how often people still get hired without extensive reference checks. When you’ve got a good feeling about someone, it’s tempting to just move ahead without any kind of due diligence. But informal reference checks can be very revealing, particularly if you can talk to people that weren’t provided by the candidate, but know him or her very well.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Tom Tunguz on reference checks: Questions to ask | A Founder’s Notebook

“If you were starting your own startup and you needed someone in this role, would you want this person to be part of your team?”

Jeff Markowitz (Talent Partner at Greylock Partners)
3 essential steps to doing a thorough reference check

Ask open-ended questions and get specific examples (e. g. , “How would you describe the person’s leadership skills?”), not yes or no questions. Most importantly, don’t settle for vague answers such as “He/she is an experienced leader. ” If you get an answer like that, ask the reference for an example of the candidate’s leadership skills in a specific situation. If the reference can’t think of one, then you should seriously question the relevancy … (read more)

Jeff Markowitz (Talent Partner at Greylock Partners)
3 essential steps to doing a thorough reference check

It’s hard to predict anyone’s failure or success in a given role, but I’ve found that references tend to be overly kind during a reference call. Roughly speaking, if you downplay positive feedback by 30% and amplify negative feedback by the same amount, it should give you a pretty good picture of the candidate.

Mark Suster (Managing Partner at Upfront Ventures)
How to Make Better Reference Calls | Bothsides of the Table

Your job is to seek “disconfirming evidence” meaning you go in with the assumption that Stacy is great but you want to be sure there isn’t something you totally missed.

Tim Sackett (President of HRU Technical Resources)
The Big Reference Check Scam!

Stop accepting references candidates give you. Instead, during the interview ask for names of their direct supervisors at every position they’ve had. Then call into those companies and talk to those people. Even with HR telling everyone “we don’t give out references,” I’ve found you can engage in some meaningful conversations off the record.

Tomasz Tunguz (Partner at Redpoint Ventures)
Anatomy of a Reference Check

Asking for weaknesses tends to put the referencer on the defensive, as if he or she is sharing something illicit. Instead, I ask the referencer the question: What kinds of people does the referenced need around him/her to be successful?

Tomasz Tunguz (Partner at Redpoint Ventures)
Anatomy of a Reference Check

Where does the referenced person shine? What kinds of work did the referenced prefer to do? What kinds of people does the referenced need around him/her to be successful? How is the referenced persuaded or convinced? What kinds of motivation does he/she respond best to? What is it like to work with the referenced day-to-day? How would you characterize your typical interactions? Would you hire or work with this person again? How highly do you reg… (read more)

Scott Cook (Founder at Intuit)
The 30 Best Pieces of Advice for Entrepreneurs in 2013 | First Round Review

[Ask] “among all the people you’ve seen in this position, on a zero to 10 scale, where does this person rank?” If the person says seven, immediately ask why they aren’t a nine or a ten. “Then you’ll finally start learning what this person really thinks,

Mark Suster (Managing Partner at Upfront Ventures)
How to Improve Hiring at Startups | Bothsides of the Table

Yes, you need to call their references. Expect them to sing their praises. If a person doesn’t list the most positive references to begin with then you know they’re not worth hiring. But you have to find a way to call people not on their list. You need to be careful and respectful of them because it’s possible that their boss doesn’t know they’re interviewing. Often you can find people if you learn to become a LinkedIn Ninja.