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MARKETING – Tips for Checking a Prospect’s References

December 20, 2004
Filed under Archives

This is the sixth in a series of articles that addresses the issue of hiring the right salespeople for your dealership.

You must be careful with the information you get from references. It is often subjective. What someone else might consider to be outstanding performance may be not be satisfactory to you. References should only be viewed as part of the total picture. They can provide an important dimension of the applicant, but not the whole story.
MAKING A GOOD REFERENCE CHECK
Either make the reference check personally or delegate it to someone else who has interviewed the applicant. Only someone who has actually interviewed the applicant can know the questions which need to be asked as well as the specific areas which need clarification.
ASKING REFERENCES ABOUT THE APPLICANT
When calling a reference to verify information about a candidate, it is best to start with general questions (dates of employment, responsibilities, income, titles, etc.). If you can establish a rapport, move on to more specific questions. Among these questions, you should always include:
1. “What type of person was this employee?”
Try to get a specific answer. Pay close attention to the first words spoken. These often indicate what the reference feels is most important about the candidate.
2. “Why is this person no longer employed by your organization?”
Compare the answer you get with the information the candidate has supplied. Try to reconcile any discrepancies.
3. “What particular trait, if any, irritated you most about this person’s performance?”
If there’s something negative in the person’s work history, one of the best ways to uncover it is to ask a direct, negative question.
4. “Would you ever consider hiring this person to work for you again?”
Regardless of the answer, make sure you ask for the specific reasons. Then weigh the answers you get. Why a previous employer would re-hire your candidate may not be good enough to match your standards or needs.
THE UNCOOPERATIVE REFERENCE
People are often reluctant to say anything about anybody. When you come across a reference who is uncooperative, it is important to establish rapport. Remember; the reference has information which may be vital to your decision. Here are three techniques that can help you get the information you need.
1. Change the subject for a minute.
Talk to the reference about how business is going. The reference may be in a sales management position just like you are. You may have a great deal in common, even if one of you sells motorcycles and the other furniture. Sell yourself. Get the person’s confidence. Then, gently work back to the subject of the candidate.
2. Explain how important the reference check is to you.
Tell the reference that the information is important to you because you don’t want to make a mistake that would reflect poorly on your professional judgment. Make the reference feel that you really need them.
3. Emphasize how expensive hiring and training is.
Don’t be afraid to seek some sympathy. Everyone knows the importance of keeping costs down. Getting the reference to look at things from your point of view might help outweigh their reluctance. Be persistent.
REFERENCE CHECK THE REFERENCE
Of all the references that you check, there will always be one or two that are crucial. They give you the answers that can make or break your opinion of the candidate. Always make sure you reference check the reference to make sure they have no hidden agendas.
One reference may give you a great opinion of a candidate. When you check on the reference, you may find out your candidate owes them money. They want your candidate to get a job, any job, so they can get paid back.
Another reference may have only negative things to say about a candidate. Further checking discovers your candidate used to date the reference’s daughter and the split was not amicable. You’ll never know what’s motivating a reference until you check. psb

Author, speaker and educator, Gart has been retained by every major powersport manufacturer/distributor. He is a frequent keynote speaker for national motorcycle conventions and state Motorcycle Dealer Association events. Visit www.gartsutton.com

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