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How to take a great testimonial on candidates

How to take a great testimonial

There has been a lot of chatter around Linked In on the efficacy of testimonials in recruitment and whether they should be relayed to a candidate and indeed the purpose of taking them.

A standard HR reference can tick a box for a potential employer, but really, in my view, is not useful to me as a recruiter.

So what do I do?

First of all, who do I take a testimonial from? If a candidate has been in role for a long period of time, it can be tricky to find someone that could provide the information needed, without compromising their situation. However, with a little thought, there will generally be someone who has left the business your candidate is working for, either a former manager, peer or subordinate – all worthy of a call when approached in the right way. Either that or a former employer is generally a good point of reference. If a candidate is reluctant to provide a testimonial, that would normally set alarm bells ringing. Ensure that the candidate contacts the testimonial in advance, out of courtesy and so they expect your call.

Secondly, why? For me, the importance of a testimonial is two-fold. The first is to confirm (or deny) my perception of the candidate and their skills and expertise, after all, whilst an expert after 12+ years in the industry, there is still only so much one can ascertain in an hour of interviewing. Secondly, if I’m putting a candidate forward for a particular position, I know what my client is looking for, so to get a 3rd party to confirm their capability of the role in question, will give the client affirmation as well as theoretically allowing my candidate to stand ahead of the competition.

Thirdly, what? Finding out numbers of days off sick and what a salary is to the penny is not what I’m looking for. Talking to the referee, I have a discussion around my perception of the candidate and the vacancy I am submitting them for and why I feel they match the criteria. After talking through all of that, I ask the referee to comment on where I’ve got it right or wrong and what I may have missed. Usually, it’s pretty accurate, but sometimes I can unearth some gems which can really support the candidate.

When do I want this testimonial? Ideally before a candidate is at final interview with a client. My client is paying me to do a job for them, so I want to ensure I am doing the best I can for the client and the best I can to ensure that my candidate is successful.

The elephant in the room – how about the hidden lead generation? Yes. I’m looking for jobs for my candidates, so why would I not ask the question at the end? This is not the purpose of the call but a consequence which may or may not lead to business. However, as one testimonial for me acknowledged, she was not working at the time and therefore absolutely not for lead generation, however for her, the outcome was that I placed her into a role, having established she was looking herself and in knowing a client, realised she would be a perfect fit.

“I have had excellent experiences with Kitty as both a provider of a testimonial for a candidate & as a candidate myself. Kitty was challenging, thorough & extremely professional whilst taking the testimonial. It was obvious she took great pride in making sure the candidate was the right fit for her client & was not simply going through the motions as I have experienced previously.

As a candidate, my experience of Kitty was first class. She progressed the various recruitment stages at pace, kept me fully updated throughout & after job offer, regularly kept in touch to ensure I had everything I needed.” 

So what about passing the reference to the candidate? Well that’s pretty straight-forward. At the end of every testimonial, I ask permission to pass it on to the client (if it’s a no, then is it OK to discuss it with them without revealing a source?) and permission to pass to the candidate. This has rarely been the case, but I think I’ve only ever been asked once to see the testimonial.

What difference has it made? Well, in some cases, I’ve had candidates interviewed that wouldn’t have been, candidates progressed to second interview where there may have been a question mark and others still, who have been offered a role when they are neck and neck with someone else.

So the question is, why WOULDN’T I take a testimonial?!

Use the links below for the legal bit.

https://www.gov.uk/work-reference

https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/fundamentals/emp-law/recruitment/references-questions

If you like that I take testimonials, either as a candidate or a client, please get in contact for how I might assist you. Kitty.lang@expion.co.uk or 07772 756867

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