Recommendations do they really work???
Recommendations are simply, verbal, written and on line testimonials, attesting to the abilities of a person to perform a given job.
Now the big question is where they fit in. This is really pretty simple, as with most things they are a piece of the puzzle. The question is what is important and what is not.
To utilize recommendations right you need to remember the who, what, where, and why of the recommendations.
So things to look at:
Who wrote or gave the recommendation (who)? This is important because the who tells us what involvement they may have had on a day-to-day level with the candidate. If they are a VP and the candidate was a developer 1 in a large company, the VP probably really has no clue how the candidate performed.
What is their title (what)? As state above, this is important because the level tells you how much real exposure the recommender had with the candidate, and how much his recommendation is worth.
What was their title when they knew the candidate (what)? Obviously, titles change so it is possible that a VP now was a dev manager when they knew the candidate so that makes their recommendation a little more valuable.
What is their relationship to the candidate (what)? This is very important, if they were friends that mean you may not be able to take what they say as anything of value. If they were coworkers, again some of what they say might be useful, some not. If the recommender was a manager of the candidate now you have something worth taking into account.
Where in the resume was the company they worked with the candidate at (where)? This is also important, because it tells you which position on the candidates resume the recommender is referring too.
What did they actually say (what)? Listen and or read careful what is said. There is allot more said in the choice of words used, then in the whole recommendation. If a recommender said the candidate did ok in something, they are probably being nice. If the recommendation states numbers, and measurable things that put the candidate in good light that is probably a good thing.
What did they not say (what)? This might be the biggest thing, what did they not say, did they fail to mention performance, did they fail to mention reliability etc. This goes back to the Looklisology posting I did earlier. Of course, not to say this should be an automatic no go for the candidate. Just a piece of the puzzle. If they do not mention performance, but when doing reference checks you get performance info that is good, it is probably no big deal. However if the performance info you get in reference check is neutral or bad, the fact they did not mention performance in a recommendation tells you something.
Why did they give the recommendation (why)? This is important because if they did it because the candidate wrote them one, then that means the recommendation could be tainted. If they did it because they really feel good about the candidate then it means more. You can often tell this by what it written/said and what is not written/said (see above and see posting on Looklisology).
Now in the advent of Social Media, sites like LinkedIn have recommendation areas. These can be great but like I stated above pay attention to the who, what, where, and why of the recommendations.
Above all else, like with reference checks recommendations are a piece in a puzzle and should not be used as a sole determining factor.
Next up, Background Checks.