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May 23, 2017
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

One of the quickest ways to multiply the quantity of candidates for a position is to source references. I see all references as potential candidates, and I treat them as such. There are three main ways I usually find references to contact. Today I’ll share with you the first method.

The first and primary way I find references to call is to use references from current candidates (If you’re interested in how to ask for the references, you should buy Steve Finkel’s book Real Recruiting). I then create a talk track angle. That’s what I call my scripts essentially, and I love scripts!

I call them talk track angles because a script makes it sound like you must follow the wording verbatim. That leads to rigid, unnatural conversation. A talk track angle is more about creating a framework and allowing yourself to be natural and flexible in your prose according to the flow of the conversation.

Here is my talk track angle for following up on current candidate references:

Hello, (candidate name).
This is Josh Brecheisen, President of Genuine Recruiting. How are you?

Purpose statement
I’m calling to get a reference check for (candidate name), and he/she put you down as a reference.

Polite Invitation
Do you have a minute to answer a few questions?

Reference questions
How well do you know (candidate name)?

What was he really good at?

What would you say isn’t his strongest point or something he could improve on?

Would you recommend him/her for an (industry) position?

He/she said you were a solid (skill set or position – e.g. developer, sales person) too.

Introduce opportunity
You know, I’m well connected in the (their industry) industry maybe we should stay connected also, if not for anything immediate maybe for something down the road. You know what I mean? (I picked up the angle of this line from Barb Bruno years ago. Although I may have modified and added to it some. It’s a good one though.)

Get info
Well, let’s try to chat when you’re not working. I can give you a call later. How does that sound?

Great. When’s the best time? What’s the best number?

That’s the framework or angle I take when I call. A few important things to note.

First note, during the reference question section, feel free to go to the second level with your questioning and ask, “why do you say that?” Asking second level questions leads to deeper understanding so that you can understand your current candidate.

Second note, during the reference question section you also want to ask questions about the reference giver you are talking to. For example, “what was your role at the time you knew him/her?” “How often did you guys interact and for what purpose?” These become qualifying questions for you when you switch hats in the introduce opportunity section.

Final note, like everything, the key is to be genuine. Calling with the intent of using anyone will not help you. People can hear the insincerity in your voice, and they will stay at arm’s length. By the time you get to the introduce opportunity section, a disingenuous approach will lead to the reference giver saying, “I’m happy where I’m at,” every time. You must have real intent to collaborate with the reference giver to help you better assess the current candidate. Be in the moment and search for meaningful content about your current candidate. Then truly have a desire to befriend and help the reference giver. If you do it right, they’ll become part of your personal network, which is a significant byproduct. Ultimately though, this is my go to approach too quickly multiply my candidate pool using references.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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