We see lots of companies that skip reference checking at the last stage of their recruiting process, before they hire sales candidates. As a result, they make mis-hires. We also have witnessed companies that realize their reference checking is inadequate, because they didn’t get to the right types of references as they made their final hiring decision.
Here’s a couple of suggestions to follow when it comes to checking references on sales candidates, before you actually make a job offer:
First, make sure that the candidate’s references are all direct supervisors whom he/she worked for in previous sales positions. Why is this important? Well, a lot of sales people, particularly those who haven’t produced very well, give you references from colleagues and other friends of theirs without giving you the people they actually worked for. If a person can’t produce references from their previous sales manager or supervisor, it’s probably a good indicator they’re not hireable. Those kinds of candidates usually should be rejected outright.
Second, make sure that you dig deeply to get the references that are missing from a candidate’s list. If you have a sales candidate that gave you one supervisor from three jobs ago, but not the supervisors from their past two jobs, ask for those references as well, and if they say that they can’t find them, ask why and tell them you’re going to need to have them track them down. You need to talk to a number of direct supervisors in order to really get a rounded perspective of the candidate.
When sales people are hesitant to give you references from any/all of previous sales supervisors, that should set off an alarm in your mind and you should make sure that you try to get those references, even if they haven’t been listed.