References…a predictive tool for hiring

Over the past few weeks I have been asked for references several times from prospective clients of our firm. They want to know what it is going to be like to work with KULPER & COMPANY before they sign our consulting agreement. I encourage them to call our references—when that happens we almost always win the assignment.

References are —when properly done–a very reliable predictor of future performance. When we complete references on a finalist candidate we try to achieve a 360 view of the candidate’s job performance from superiors, peers and subordinates. It is amazing how consistent the stories are—-and therein lies the value of the exercise.

We call the references our candidate supplies to us. In this way this all important element of the search process is totally above board since the references know that it is fine with the candidate for them to speak with our firm. Skeptics might opine, “how can you expect to get an unbiased opinion”? In response we say—“we don’t…and that is very OK”. When we call the reference we expect to get an immediate gush of positive opinion—“he ( or she) is a great person to work with!”….and once the reference gets that out, we begin to ask questions designed to verify accomplishments, problem solving abilities, work style and personal character. They tell us alot because they are trying to be helpful to their colleagues. It is truly uncanny how similar the stories about the finalist candidate really are….once we have spoken with a few of the references. In essence, we are cross referencing the original assessment of the finalist candidate. We learn about him or her from the perspective of people who have actually been in the trenches with that person and willingly provide valuable/ predictable insights about their own experience with the candidate. The net result of the collective stories is that they are, indeed, highly predictive of how the hired candidate does in fact behave ( and perform) in his or her new assignment.

A colleague in the search consulting business recently told me about his search process. He had worked for several internationally recognized search firms before starting his own practice and he was keen to make some process improvements when he got out there on his own. He said, ” Keith, I do the interviewing of the candidates myself and then call their references, too, when we advance to that point in the search process. I find that the outcomes of our search assignments tend be long lasting and resultant client satisfaction leads us to a great deal of repeat business for my firm”. Bravo!

In search consulting, two of the key elements of the value proposition of the service are:
1) hired candidate length of tenure and,
2) hired candidate record of promotion/increase in responsibility.

Getting underneath the work record “story” of finalist candidates, before the final decision to hire is reached, helps assure that the hired candidate will enjoy long job tenure and an opportunity to be promoted because he or she truly is, the “right hired candidate..

Warm regards,

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About Keith Kulper

Keith D. Kulper is the president and founder of KULPER & COMPANY, LLC an executive search consulting firm working in the area of senior level leadership for academia and corporate innovation. We are strong advocates of nurturing the linkage between academic investigation/research and corporate innovation/full commercialization of new product solutions. We specialize in attracting proven leaders who can effectively drive transformational change. The firm operates an Advisory Board that meets annually to bring together leaders from academia and corporate innovation to help drive continuous improvement of our professional practice. We are also an investor in early stage companies. We take pride in supporting the growth and development of business and engineering schools at leading universities throughout the United States.

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