I was recently asked to be a reference for someone applying for a new role at a new company. I was expecting the standard “would you recommend this person, is there anything you think we should know, etc” basic questions. I’ve often felt this was a go-through-the-motion step for most interviews. Seriously, who gives names of someone that wouldn’t say good things. I’m sure it happens a couple of times but it always felt mostly performative.
But not this time. This company has a completely different approach. I am refraining from giving the company name but if they want it listed, I’m happy to promote them. This is the opening part of what I received…
<Person name omitted> has accepted our role for <role name omitted>,
and we’d like to get your thoughts in order to help with career progression, growth, and development here at <company name omitted>.
The following questions are meant to help us and <person name omitted>’s manager understand how to better support <person name omitted>:
This was then followed by a list of questions. I’m choosing not to share them as this might be their further advantage approach.
But seriously, how amazing is this?!
For starters, let’s recognize that this sends the message that we have decided to invest and are committed to helping this person be successful. Instead of focusing on “should we hire?”, they focused on giving a true opportunity to help someone. Because this was so refreshing and inspiring, my engagement in answering the questions was significantly higher. In some ways, it even increased my excitement for this person with this opportunity.
In addition, I became a fan of the company very quickly. Within a few sentences, they demonstrated people first! I have very little doubt that this is a company that walks its talk.
I also feel a little shame that I truly never considered this alternative to benefiting from “references”. I myself was stuck in the “this is how it is done.” thinking. I’m now energized to think of other things that I find very little value in and how to flip them for benefit. So thank you!
What questions might you add for this approach to references?