Navigating the list of potential red flags during the hiring process can be tough, especially when time is of the essence. Spending just a few moments learning the biggest red flags at each stage, however, can save significant time and money when it helps hiring managers avoid a bad hire in favor of a candidate who will do the job well and “fit” within the company’s structure and culture.

This week, we’ll take a look at some of the biggest red flags that might arise during the reference-checking process. Hiring managers who find themselves hearing any of the following from a candidate’s references would do well to proceed with caution:

  1. The reference is entirely positive. The candidate who has never made a mistake or who meshes perfectly with every other human personality does not exist. While it’s always possible to get one reference who simply adores a particular candidate, if every reference on the list has nothing but positive feedback on every aspect of the candidate and his or her work, it’s time to think twice. Honest references will be able to discuss both strengths and weaknesses in a realistic way. Ask what the candidate can improve on, and don’t accept “nothing” for an answer.
  2. The reference contains no specifics. Vague reference comments or recommendation letters are the very definition of the saying “damn with faint praise.” When a reference can’t explain why they praise a candidate’s attendance, attitude, work ethic, performance, or motivation, chances are good that either the reference does not know the candidate very well, or some less-than-glowing information is missing from the picture.
  3. The reference’s comments contain long pauses, evasions, or refusals to answer. How a reference approaches your questions can say as much as the words used to answer them. A reference who pauses for a long time when asked a question, for instance, may be struggling to frame the answer constructively – which may mean the answer is worse than the words used make it sound. References who evade a question or don’t answer it directly may also be attempting to cover up important information, or they may simply not know the candidate well enough to help you. And a refusal to answer can be a clear red flag if not a single reference will talk about the candidate’s skills or attitude.

At SMR Group Ltd, our experienced recruiters specialize in connecting biotech, medical device, and pharmaceutical companies with the best sales and marketing talent in the field. Contact us today to learn more.


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