I’m on the receiving end of a lot of reference calls. I try to be thoughtful and direct in my responses, but I’m increasingly annoyed by the generic nature of the questions. Over time, I’ve developed an approach to doing reference checks, and my approach actively avoids asking any of the following questions.
- How did you get to know Person X?
- What is your relationship to Person X?
- What were Person X’s different roles?
- How does Person X rank concerning leadership ability?
- How does Person X rank concerning analytical ability?
- What about Person X’s vision and ability to communicate it to others?
- Was Person X well respected by the people he managed?
- What are Person X’s strengths?
- What are Person X’s weaknesses or areas for development?
- Would you hire Person X again? If so, what size company?
- What other questions should I have asked?
- Are there any things you would want to know if you were me?
I don’t know which VC or Private Equity firm first came up with this list of questions, but like many elements of a term sheet, they seem to have been passed down from generation to generation.
My answer to the last question is “Do you ever get tired of doing reference checks this way?”