Power checks - Part 1

We're all used to the classic form of reference checking where you ask a candidate you have made an offer to for usually two reference contacts for you to call. Generally, the reference is asked a number of standard questions trying to solicit if the candidate actually did what he said he did and reaffirming that the candidate was trustworthy, reliable, intelligent, etc.

Usually, these go smoothly and typically very little is learned about the candidate as the referee is usually very polite and possibly a personal friend of the candidate!

That's your classic reference check but there is a new way of doing it which is particularly powerful for validating the skills of developers or technical candidates. Not only can it validate domain skills it can also be a proactive way to dig up leads for other roles you may have.

Here's how it works. When conducting a power check the first thing I usually do is place the candidates name is quotation marks for e.g. I hired an engineer in my last company called "morten jorgensen". Morten claimed on his CV that he was a strong java developer. To test this i went into google groups to see if he had posted any technical questions or solved some other persons technical questions in one of the numerous IT forums that are running daily.

So I typed in "morten jorgensen" Boom!!! 5 lines down there he was asking a jde bug question, see here
Straight away I knew that he had done at least some level of coding which helped me validate his skills. But not only, was this pleasing to learn. It revealed loads of other data that could be used to conduct some guerrilla recruiting. It gave me the name of the forum he used. It gave me the email addresses of other like minded individuals and it gave me strings of solutions to the questions which could be used by hiring manager to design questions for interviewers. Next, I decided to dig a little deeper into Morten's technical online blueprint so I typed into Google's normal web search prompt "morten jorgensen" +@sun. It said on his CV that he had worked for Sun Microsystems so by using the @ plus company name I was able to fine tune my search and see a whole bart of questions he had been involved in, see here. Not only was I now a little more confident that Morten knew not just a little coding but a lot from the frequency and complexity of his posts but he seemed to be a well established coder answering other coder's questions as well. This information was very helpful for me and the hiring manager.

Power checks in my opinion are a good way to conduct some reference checks but they are also good ways to check candidate’s skills even before a candidate comes to interview. It may help a hiring manager tailorise a particular interviewing question and may allow you gauge before a candidate sits foot into an interviewing room how strong their technical skills are. Something often difficult to validate in the best of recruitment screening processes!

In the next blog i'll show you how to conduct a power check using archives. Particulalry useful if you are trying to validate if a candidate claims he was a manager in a company.