Reference Checks Are The Key To Hiring Extraordinary People

Kevin Ryan

If you could either only interview your job candidates or only conduct reference checks, which would you choose?

Serial Internet entrepreneur Kevin Ryan thinks the answer is simple. Reference checks. Every time.

“The reason I think it would be great is you’d be panicking,” explains Ryan in a recent video interview with Inc. “You’d be like, ‘I haven’t even met the person, so how am I going to hire them? Well I’m going to call everyone. I’m going to do an incredible job.'”

Ryan, whose titles include chairman and founder of Gilt Groupe, and, in the interest of full disclosure, chairman and co-founder of Business Insider, says references are an invaluable resource for any hiring manager. They help paint a picture of what, exactly, the candidate was like in former work roles. The right reference “knows this person and knows everything about them,” Ryan says.

What’s more, references help guard against a hiring manager making a potentially risky gut instinct decision. Ryan admits that, in the past, he has fallen victim to hiring a person based on an initial “gut feel” and conducting only perfunctory reference checks. “And so then I find out a year later that when this person didn’t work well with other people that actually that happened at their last company as well, and that’s 100% my fault,” he adds.

Ryan says it’s best to have a wide range of references. That way you’re not just interviewing the friends your candidate listed and also ensuring you don’t accidentally talk only to the one person who has a huge grudge against your applicant.

Despite the many upsides reference checks offer, Ryan notes that surprisingly few people give them the time they deserve.

“I know people who will interview 30 people to find someone, spend 30 hours,” he says. “Would you spend even five hours doing reference checks? I doubt it.”