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When hiring a manager, is it OK to ask for references of workers they’ve supervised?

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Question:

I recently hired a manager and soon after encouraged him to move on. His reference was great from his previous employer, but our staff hated him, and it became a “he goes or we go” situation. They said he was either micromanaging or sitting around on his laptop and not jumping in. I observed both. In replacing him, I want to check references not only of other owners but also of previous staff. Can I do that?

– Owner

Answer:

I love the idea of checking references not only of previous employers, but peers and supervisees.

In my own work as a culinary educator, I provide references of former students as well as former employers when asked for references. Given my role, what could be more important than what my students think of me and what impact I had on them? The same could be said of a good restaurant manager.

Of course, a candidate need not provide them, but I support your idea of asking for specific types of references, such as former employers and former employees. It will give you additional perspective. Still, references should be taken as just one data point, and not the primary one, in determining whether a candidate would be a good hire.

It is sad that it didn’t work out. It also sounds like you let things devolve too far before mentoring and encouraging your manager to improve. You might have been able to turn things around through coaching and mentorship if you caught the problem before he lost the confidence of your team.

More on checking references here.

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