You are recruiting a Vice President for a key role. You have hired a search professional because you have run out of network. The senior recruiter has met your team, understands your company goals and objectives, and pulls together a targeted position description. You are now ready to start evaluating candidates.

The recruiter shares a few candidates and reviews a list of prospects, people that they plan to reach out to with your blessing. You decide you like the lead candidate so you call a few of your buddies to check the person out, ahead of scheduling the first interview. One of your colleagues tells you that the candidate is very talented. Another colleague has a different point of view, and says the candidate is stubborn (insubordinate, difficult, etc.) You decide that stubborn is not good for you and your team, and you decide to tell the recruiter that you don’t like the candidate after all, and you have not had a phone call with the candidate

Now what? Well, what you have done is eliminated someone on a couple of data points, and possibly a strong opinion, not on a full capabilities assessment. You have no idea how long ago this negative review was observed, or if the candidate has grown out of this bad habit. Nor do you know if this data point came from a time that they had some personal struggles – all you know if what your colleague told you.

If the candidate is currently working – it is more dangerous. You are poking around in the candidate’s past and character, the inquiry may unintentionally put them at risk of losing their current role. Another risk, is that this could potentially start a chink in the relationship of that candidate with their current team.

Backdoor references provide a very limited and often biased view of how a person performs. On every good reason to hire a search professional is not just because you cannot find people yourself, but because you want to hire right and you need to democratize the process. You need someone to keep you accountable to hiring the right person, unbiased, and insure you make a great hire.

There are no perfect candidates – only perfectly flawed humans with specialized skills in your industry. What matters most depends on the function and performance. What results did they get? How did this person communicate and build relationships? Hopefully you hire someone who is not afraid to provide push back, feedback and divergent perspectives. Singularity of thought kills many good products and companies.