When I first started hiring folks, I viewed reference calls as a chance to verify what I heard in the interview. Then, the more calls I got on, the more my mindset changed. I found that I learned so more about the candidate when I got curious.
What was it like collaborating with them?
What did they find most exciting about their work?
How did they handle feedback?
If we hired the candidate, it felt great. I learned more about their working style, strengths, and opportunities, creating a solid foundation for our relationship.
I realized that if verifying information was all I was after, there was no trust in the relationship, and they hadn't even joined the team! I started trusting what I heard and, instead of verifying, used it to guide what areas to go deeper on.
These days, I enjoy reference calls quite a bit. For me, they are just as important as the interview itself, and each delivers a unique value. In the interview, you get to learn about the candidate's background and what led them to apply to work with you. In the reference calls, you have an opportunity to get an inside look at what it might be like to work alongside them, from past managers, co-workers, and in some cases, direct reports.
Together, these can paint a full picture of the individual, giving you that much more background to set them up for success in their new role should you choose to hire them.