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According to Dr. Charles Ridley, former professor at Fuller Seminary, "the best predictor of future performance of an individual is the persons past performance." Many employers will collect and review many résumés, screen and interview candidates well but then offer a position without thoroughly checking references.

A Senior Pastor was leading a church of 1,200 members in Detroit, Michigan with a large ministerial staff and was interviewing for a children's pastor. The ministry focus was ministering to city youth without church backgrounds, and many of the kids came from broken homes and from un-churched backgrounds.

Many names were collected, resumes gathered and reviewed and interviews conducted culminating in the hiring of a youth Pastor.

Shortly after arriving, problems began to develop between this pastor and church members. He came from a church sustained by four generations of Christians, and the children's ministry focused on children of committed church members.

Little outreach to the un-churched was done, or expected. This new pastor related poorly to his new charges, and he didn't want to teach kids who were—at times—unruly, and objected to working with kids with significant family issues.

In short order, he left the church and returned to a similar type church he severed in the past. Had the Senior Pastor talked to past references, the misfit hire could have been avoided.

There is no substitute for the time, diligence and effort required to thoroughly check references. The references check is designed to determine if the person applying for a position has the graces, gifts, skills and fit for the perspective position.

Effective reference checking takes time and effort, and I recommend that the review be done after the final interview, but before an announcement is made of a candidate, or offers are extended.

Bruce Dingman, a search professional of the Robert Dingman Company, believes references should be checked using a 360-degree method, talking to superiors, peers, and subornments if possible. That way, you get a complete perspective from the person.

He believes most successful people have one or mare failures in their background, and that the key is to understand that failure, and what the person learned.

Following Up On References
When preparing to follow up with references, start by making a list of your questions, and leave space to write down their answer. Time has a way of rewriting our thoughts, so taking good notes is a must. While you may develop questions specific to the job, some basic questions will help predict future performance.

Always ask for examples when possible and allow plenty of time for complete answers. Don't break an uncomfortable silence; wait for an answer, and you may say, "I know you may need a minute to recall the answer."

Ask about how the candidate has grown on the job. Expect more from seasoned people, but ask about specific instances where the person made a mistake, and how they demonstrated learning from the experience. Have they repeated the same errors?

Question how they handle conflict. Do they go to a person who has offended them, and positively confront the situation or do they allow the situation to fester? What staff conflicts has the person experienced, and how did they react? Do they tend to complain about feelow employees or management to others, but fail to confront the issue directly with the person(s) involved?

Inquire how they have handled criticism, from both superiors and co-workers. Have they treated valid criticisms as learning opportunities? Are they defensive or have they become angry? When inappropriate criticisms are made, do they remain composed and keep the conversation positive? Have they always maintained a positive demeanor?

Ask how the person follows through on assignments and if they require follow up, or if they are self-starters. Do they do what they say they will do? Are deadlines met? How do they react when roadblock come up: do they surrender, or find a way through timely? What goals were establish, and obtained?

Explore the person's greatest strengths and how that strength had a positive impact on their job.

Also ask about the person's greatness weakness and how that weakness impacted their jopb. Did anyone tell them about their weakness, and what was the reaction? Keep in mind each candidate will possess strong points as well as weaknesses.

A key is to determine if the strengths will be key in the job to be offered, and if the weaknesses will be fatal. A person who has demonstrated poor job growth may be OK if future growth is not important, or poor follow up skills may not matter much if the job has little follow up.

If possible, identify a future job related problem or difficult situation, and ask how they believe the prospective employee would handle the situation. When the person has previously left employment, ask directly what specific circumstances lead to the change of employment. Follow up if the answer is ambiguous or vague.

Avoid posing questions positively, or negatively, or you may get a jaded answer. Try to stay objective. Also, different references may have a different perspective of the candidate just as witnesses to that same crime may have a different recollection of the events. Just keep on digging and endeavor to reconcile the different perspectives with thorough questions.

Failure to check references is usually caused by three factors. First, the decision maker doesn't have time, but the long-term effect of hiring the wrong person will consume future mountains of time.

Second, you may believe you are a great interviewer and know a great person when you see them. Unfortunately, you can never learn everything you need to know during the interview process.

Your turn will come when you receive calls from others regarding you knowledge of former colleagues, and if you desire and expect forthright, helpful answers when you inquire, you will need to be willing to offer the same feedback in return when you are contacted.

Jesus taught, "you have not because you ask not," and you may not have the right person to fit into your business because you have not asked. Each person has been given gifts and graces for their careers. Working to validate past references will give you the information to insure a great fit for you, your business, and the person hired.

Business Proverbs.
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Author Biography

Steve Marr
Web site: The Life
Steve Marr has learned from 40 years of business experience that God's way works. As an author, speaker and business consultant, Marr helps companies and organizations apply the ancient wisdom of the Bible to avoid the common mistakes and headaches of growing a business.

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