Why you’ll start referencing again in 2019

Luke Shipley
Jun 25, 2019 · 4 min read

Behavioral designer inspires a new way to reference, born out of Stanford

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You gave up on referencing a while back. You spent far too long trading voicemails with ex-managers that quite rightly couldn’t prioritise your conversation. It gave you an unwelcome reminder of agency recruiters forcing out another ‘hope you’re’ well’ voicemail, that deep down, they knew would fall on deaf ears.

Behavioral designer Nir Eyal designs systems and products to instill certain behaviours. In 2012, he proposed a Nirly perfect new referencing system. Nir credits the system to Irv Grousbeck at Stanford. He proposed that we take advantage of people’s laziness to remove bias from referencing and infer the information we need to hire. This can be done by emailing referees and asking them not to respond unless the candidate was in the top 10% of people they’ve worked with, giving them an easy way out. Only in exceptional circumstances where the candidate was something to behold, should they respond with a reference. This is an interesting take on referencing as a whole and is far more effective than the usual confirmation bias reference calls. However, since referencing is what Zinc does, we’ve got a couple of tweaks to suggest. We’ve built this referencing technique in our automated system too, so 2019’s best way to reference will cost you a couple of minutes rather than a couple of weeks.

We’ve found that referees politeness trumps their laziness. Maybe it’s a British thing, but not responding to a reference request for an old colleague you liked but wasn’t a world beater doesn’t sit well. As a good decent human referee you’d like to give them a reference. But equally, you don’t want to over egg their ability so that yolk ends up on your face. So we want to design the system so that the easiest default response is a date check reference. Making the most logical response, to confirm the dates and the job title of the applicant, nothing more. But on the off chance that this applicant was one of the top 5% of engineers you feel lucky to have shared a kanban board with, then here’s a large 15 minute form we’d like you to complete. That’s 5% because human nature stretches that to 10 (double). Asking for the 10%, we’ll end up with the top 20% so asking for the top 5% means they can count out the rockstars on two hands after the human nature stretch.

‘Do you, Mrs referee really believe this individual was blessed?’ Ok, then I’m going to test your conviction on that statement with a big 15 minute competency questionnaire. One that really makes you think. Hard. So if you think that this colleague might have been in the 11th percent then it really would be easier to default back to that date check. It is still a reference after all and you’re busy. Really busy.

This is what the work looks like for the hiring manager or recruiter initiating the reference. It really is under two minutes even if you type like an elephant wearing cricket gloves…

  1. Head to https://zinc.work/recruit and click new reference.
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2. Select ‘Top 10% Reference’ or ‘Average need not apply’ as Nir calls it.

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3. Enter your candidates email and a note to them.

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Viola — The reference results arrive back. Expect most of your references look like the below. This means your candidates referees didn’t think they fell into the top 10%.

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The reference results arrive back

Depending on what your screening process is like and when you conduct references it should be higher than 90% you see pass through due to some filtration your end first. But this raises a good point, when to conduct your references. The reason you previously settled for second best ~ confirmation bias references for so long, is that they were conducted at the final stage, after you and everyone else interviewing decided that this candidate was the top 10%. It’s then not in anyone’s interests to throw a spanner in the works, unless something decidedly frightful gets uncovered. This is why you need these results back before the final interview is booked, before you’ve invested too much. You save yourself some time, the earlier in the process you get this extra info.

Get in touch if you’d like support using the Zinc’s blockchain basedreferencing tools to screen for the top 10% of candidates. Or to learn about culture fit referencing, remote worker referencing; luke@zinc.work. Thanks to Nir Eyal for the inspiration behind this new referencing formula.

Get in touch if you’d like support using the Zinc’s blockchain based hiring toolkit; hello@zinc.work.

Website: https://zinc.work

Twitter: https://twitter.com/zinc_work

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/zinc-work/

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Blockchain and the Distributed Workforce

Luke Shipley

Written by

Co-founder of ZINC :::> https://zinc.work/ <::: Creating sustainable work data with Zinc’s employee background checking tools.

Blockchain and the Distributed Workforce

Articles and resources about new decentralized models for work, using blockchain and other technologies. Will also cover related topics including demographics, the job market and new organisational models.

Luke Shipley

Written by

Co-founder of ZINC :::> https://zinc.work/ <::: Creating sustainable work data with Zinc’s employee background checking tools.

Blockchain and the Distributed Workforce

Articles and resources about new decentralized models for work, using blockchain and other technologies. Will also cover related topics including demographics, the job market and new organisational models.

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