skip to Main Content

Hire better by combining PI with behavioral interviews & reference checks

Finding the perfect hire is hard enough, right? But once you think you have the right person, make sure that person is as fantastic as you think. The cost of hiring the wrong person is high, and you want to avoid any unnecessary risks and also leverage the information that you obtain from behavioral interviews and professional references.
Checking references is vital at the end of the hiring process. Along with a background check and other tasks in your company’s policy, calling references is one that you should consider, asking them specific questions. Depending on the references provided, you may receive a detailed response from a previous employer or simply dates.  Generally candidates are asked to provide a minimum of 3 references, ideally from a former boss, peer and subordinate, depending on the level of the person.

Digging into a candidate with reference checks and behavioral interviewing can help you to prevent receiving canned responses and will stimulate more conversation. You can make a hiring decision contingent upon all references checking out. If you can’t speak to someone who worked with your candidate at his or her current company, once he or she has accepted an offer for you and told the company, give the former boss a ring. If your new hire has been dishonest on his application, the deal is off.
Use the reference checking process as a way to inquire into a candidate’s behaviors as shown in the PI, just as you would use the PI to delve deeper during a behavioral interview. You may learn some interesting things about his or her workplace behavior and also see some insights into weaknesses or strengths.


In situations where the candidate’s PI is not an exact match to the PRO, behavioral based interviewing can be extra valuable. In one situation, The Oliver Group found a sales candidate that had a lower B (social factor) than the PRO called for. Questions around his engagement levels and social skills, the behavior expressed with a high B, revealed that he was most animated in conversations where he had an interest or expertise. He was hired by the client, who is aware that this individual will do best in technical sales situations and relationship-based sales will be more of a challenge for him.


A client was reviewing candidates for an Administrative Assistant role, and according to her PI, the most favorable candidate had difficulties making decisions (A/D conflict), yet she had been in administrative roles for over 20 years. Calls to her references corroborated that her successes described in her interviews were true, and questions about her decision making skills revealed that in her areas of expertise, she was capable of making informed, quick decisions in areas she was comfortable in. She is still in that role today.

  • Was the non detail-oriented candidate able to get tasks done when called upon to do so
  • Did the socially oriented candidate ever talk too much and distract other employees?
  • How well did the less socially-oriented candidate communicate with you?
  • Did the less detail-oriented candidate follow company protocol?
  • Did the candidate with high patience finish projects in a timely manner?
  • Did the low patience, less detail-oriented candidate rush through activities and forget about details or following the rules?


With insightful information based on the PI of the candidate, employers can make more informed hiring decisions. Answers from the reference checking and behavioral interviewing process can be used to select candidates, or to have information to improve your management of the candidate once he or she is brought aboard to the new position. If you understand where your hire’s weaknesses and strengths are from the PI, the behavioral reference checks can also provide further understanding of those and the limits of your employee.
Checking references is a necessary activity that you might not feel like you have the time for and often you don’t find any problems, but think of all the time and money you’ll save by avoiding that bad hire.

Back To Top