Startups The Secret to Great Reference Conversations –

The Secret to Great Reference Conversations –


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Three phone calls. Six questions. Relief.

whether you are now signing up with a major supplier, hiring an employee or considering an investment, reference calls are absolutely crucial. Before I learned how to do them right, they were purely factual in nature: “Hey, did Jim work with you from 2011 to 2013? What was his job title?” For a long time I thought that’s what all reference conversations were for. Oh, was I wrong. Over the years, I’ve learned that there are six great questions you can ask to get the answers you’re looking for.

In this example, I’m assuming I’m hiring someone, but the same logic applies to all other situations where you need to call references.

Why do references refer?

I originally assumed there is a reference interview to check if an applicant is twisting the truth or sincerely lying to you. That does not appear to be the case. I mean it is, but it’s not what the reference calls are in front of. The main goal is to get a better understanding of the person you will be doing business with. Determine what drives them, find out if and how they fit into your organization, and – perhaps most importantly – find out what to talk about in future conversations with them.

There are two parts to refer to calls: who do you call and what do you ask? This article covers both. Today, I wouldn’t even consider making an investment, hiring a staff member, or taking a job (or any serious, multi-monthly consultancy assignment) without having three reference interviews.

Shreya Christina
Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

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