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Many employers spend a great deal of time and effort on the interview process but fail to conduct a thorough reference check on potential employees with past employers. As a sales manager, it is your responsibility to the company to find out everything you can about the candidate before you extend an offer of sales employment to them. You should speak to several references. DO NOT SETTLE FOR ANY LESS THAN THREE REFERENCES FROM BUSINESS ASSOCIATES. For sales personnel obtain a 360 degree perspective by speaking with a candidate’s supervisor, sales manager, peer and customer. The following guidelines will help you extract the most information from a reference check:

  • Prepare yourself. Know what areas you need to probe and what questions you plan to ask. Start with the basics: dates of employment, salary etc. Write them down. 
  • Talk to the candidate’s immediate supervisor. They are the most accurate source concerning the person’s on-the-job performance. 
  • Build a telephone rapport with references. References who feel comfortable on the telephone will be more willing to volunteer information. Assure them that all conversations will be held strictly confidential. 
  • Listen to how your questions are answered. If you hear hesitancy in responses, probe gently to discover what the reference is reluctant to discuss. 
  • Listen for enthusiasm. A “good” reference is one where the reference is enthusiastic about the candidate. Phrases like “He’s alright” or “She’ll be adequate” are red flags. Probe further. 
  • Ask for a referral. If you can contact another person who can provide further insight into the candidate’s work performance, ask for the name. 
  • Conclude the discussion and complete your notes. You need to have a clear impression of how the reference felt about your candidate. Any concerns that have arisen during the discussion need to be written down and brought up in conversation with other references.

About the Author:

The Canadian Professional Sales Association (CPSA) is a national organization of 30000 sales and marketing professionals. Members receive significant savings on travel, business costs and more. The CPSA also offers exclusive sales training and certification programs.



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