Clients, Executive Search

The DSML Executive Search Process for Checking Candidate References and Background

Consider the situation where DSML Executive Search discovered that a candidate, about to be hired in a Technical Sales position for an industrial/manufacturing client, a manufacturer of precision measuring equipment, had not actually worked, for over a year, at the most recent employer listed on both his/her resume and LinkedIn profile. Our client was desperate to fill this position yet was extremely grateful for our persistence in digging deeper as this misrepresentation was a major concern for them.

In another situation, a candidate had carefully worded their resume to provide the appearance of a completed MBA however the individual had not actually completed it. When we shared the news to our Medical Device client, they rescinded the job offer.

One surprising situation we encountered was where a candidate provided us with fake names (and contact emails) as references. Our recruitment team smelled something fishy right away and our closer investigation triggered our client to clearly change their mind about moving forward.

We’d like to say that we’ve “seen it all” yet there are always new situations that surprise us. Here are a few examples that we discovered in performing standard headhunter background checks:

  • A candidate with an excessive amount of speeding tickets, led to our client withdrawing their offer for a sales role because of the potential liability in providing a company vehicle.
  • Candidate who provided poor references really, “didn’t come out so great”, in terms of performance
  • A candidate who was actually the owner of the former employer that had let her go as they had gone bankrupt
  • A candidate with hidden criminal behavior

Candidates are selling themselves to prospective employers

Resumes and LinkedIn profiles are, in essence, sales pitches where candidates carefully craft a message that shows them as attractive as possible for a potential employer.
Some typical issues in a cleverly crafted misleading profile:

  • Candidates fudging some dates of employment to hide a brief, and potentially unfavorable situation
  • Omitting negative experiences and only listing compelling successes
  • Blurring their particular role or responsibilities to make it tough to evaluate their true contributions to a team initiative

Reference checking provides a client with an outside perspective on the candidate’s accomplishments as well as their strengths and limitations and we do it well.

DSML Executive Search asks candidates for their references early on in the process – before they are interviewed by the client. If at all possible, we attempt to speak with all former bosses for the past 8-10 years and, occasionally, peers and subordinates, (depending on our consultant feedback following the interviews). Occasionally the situation arises where a candidate has been with their current employer for a long time and, in this situation, we seek out two or three people, perhaps individuals who have left the company.

One of the keys for an effective search is to:

  • Allocate sufficient time for checking references. Ask questions based on consultant/client interview feedback and “listen” to the reference information provided
  • Not be of the mindset that we’ve found a great person and only focus on what you we want to hear.  Be prepared to eliminate a candidate
  • Notice what is “not” being said
  • Keep making calls until we receive a consistent thread of information

According to SHRM

Some of the reasons for conducting background/reference checks are:

  • Protecting employees and customers
  • Improve the quality of hires
  • Mandated by law
  • Protect company reputation
  • Prevent and/or reduce theft or other criminal activity

From an Executive Search perspective

For DSML, from an executive recruitment perspective, we simply want to find the best possible fit for both our clients and candidates.

If your company is seeking to recruit for a key position, such as CEO, COO, President, VP or other Senior level role, have a conversation with DSML Executive Search to ensure your search includes a “thorough” process and a “success based” strategy.

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