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The Whole Picture: Get Peer and Manager References When Hiring

The Whole Picture: Get Peer and Manager References When Hiring
Credit: Goodluz/Shutterstock

When conducting reference checks of job candidates, employers are best served by not only talking to those they worked for, but those they worked with as well, new research suggests.

The study from SkillSurvey revealed that speaking to both groups delivers a clearer picture because managers and co-workers provide different types of feedback. Specifically, when references are providing open-ended feedback, managers emphasize task-related behaviors, like meeting deadlines and working independently, while co-workers emphasize interpersonal behaviors, such as being helpful, compassionate and a good listener.

With the right soft skills being more important ever, the study shows why getting a more holistic picture of a job candidate is critical, said Ray Bixler, SkillSurvey's CEO and president. [Soft skills are more in-demand than ever. Here are the skills employers look for most.]

"While managers may be able to speak to a candidate's abilities, a co-worker may provide more insights about a candidate's office presence and effectiveness as a teammate, which has the potential to impact customer service, company culture, and organizational success," Bixler said in a statement.

For the study, researchers analyzed 20,000 references for 5,000 job candidates. They found a number of differences in the feedback managers and co-workers offered. In discussing where job candidates can improve, these were the most notable things the two reference types emphasized:

  • Co-workers: Being too helpful, handling stress poorly, being a perfectionist and working too much
  • Managers: Lacking in experience and proactivity

When talking about job candidates' areas of strengths, these were among the disparities in answers:

  • Co-workers: Understanding, listening, experience, confidence, assertiveness, compassion, caring, friendliness, knowledge and helpfulness
  • Managers: Dependability, reliability, meeting deadlines and working independently

"We are excited to have discovered that while managers hone in on more traditional themes such as task performance, experience and knowledge, co-workers are more likely to emphasize interpersonal behaviors," said Cynthia Hedricks, SkillSurvey's chief analytics officer.

The study looked at feedback from two managers and two co-workers per candidate. The 5,000 candidates were applying for a job in one of 34 different industries, represented by 636 different companies.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years in media. A 1998 journalism graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff full time as a senior writer. Before Business News Daily, Chad spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Chad has also worked on the other side of the media industry, promoting small businesses throughout the United States for two years in a public relations role. His first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Chicago suburbs.