Category: Human Resources

To check, or not to check references, that is the question?

People often ask me why I bother conducting reference checks when candidates are only going to give names of people who like them, right? Wrong!

Have you ever interviewed someone and have this niggling doubt about their character? Why not ask the question in the reference check? The referee can either confirm or deny how you are feeling.

We had a candidate, say her name was “Julie” who breezed her way through the interview, never admitting to fault or having made any mistakes. I had alarm bells going off in my head. How can a person be so perfect that they have never made an error and how could they not take the opportunity to learn from their mistakes? When I asked Julie’s referee how Julie dealt with negative feedback? Her manager said “she was terrible at taking on feedback and admitting mistakes, she thinks she is perfect”. We didn’t hire Julie!

In fact, reference checks should not be standard, they should be tailored to each role and should also include questions that ensure the candidates aligns with the values of the company.

At Proclaim, we also use a process called “top grading” interviews. Topgrading is a chronological interview that takes candidates through their full career. With candidates motivated to be totally honest, you delve into every job – and every success, failure, key decision, and key relationship including manager relationships.

We find the threat of reference check (or TORC Technique) to be very effective in soliciting honest answers from candidates. At every step in the hiring process, we remind candidates that before receiving an offer from our organisation, we will speak to their manager and confirm their story.

At the end of this process we conduct thorough top grading reference checks to confirm the story of the referee vs the potential new Proclaimer. If the stories match then we know that they have been honest throughout the process.

So when hiring, make sure you have tailored reference check questions. If you don’t, you are missing a great opportunity to confirm if the person really is who they say they are, in the interview.


What do good leaders do?

In a recent meeting with Jo Burston, CEO of Inspiring Rare Birds, a very successful entrepreneur, I noticed that she rattled off statistics of her business really quickly and easily.

I couldn’t help but wonder do successful business leaders walk around with a few key statistics in their head? Why do so many of us women shy away from numbers ?

Financial literacy is something we aren’t born with, it’s learned and yet it seems when we were younger we were either exposed to it from our families in business or if we weren’t, we had to make a conscious effort at school or uni to study accounting. As adults we often say, I’m not good at Maths or I don’t really understand the numbers in my business, that’s my accountants role!

In a recent education session with Jo Burston, CEO, Inspiring Rare Birds, we discussed the importance of knowing Revenue, Gross Profit (GP) / Operating Expenditure (OPEX) and Net Profit after Tax (NPAT) in your business and comparing these year on year.

When dealing with business facts, Jo says “choose 2- 3 key facts and write down the stats on a post it note on your desk and then when you need them they are there.”

Another thing many of us women were never taught is how to evaluate a business or how to get involved in investment of other companies. I love companies like SHEEO who make it easy to invest $1000 in a growing female led business, it makes it easy to put some skin in the game. You can find out more here

In a world where we need to learn so much to stay ahead in business, I realise that to be an effective leader we can’t shy away from the numbers, we must take time to travel the financial literacy journey and remember to walk around with a few key stats in your head, be ready to sprout them as loudly and as often as possible!

Breaking up with your employees, the right way…

When you get offered a new job or contract you feel amazing, someone is willing to pay you for what you do and it is personal. And yet, when we terminate the employment relationships we are expected not to take things personally? It’s always personal and it always hurts. The only thing we can do is treat people with dignity and empathy when we end an employment relationship.

I have worked for over 20 years in HR and I have had multiple termination conversations. In this trying time, many people are being terminated from their roles and contracts. I wanted to share the best way to terminate employment with diginity.

  1. The initial meeting- The most important part of this conversation is understanding that this is a shock, the employee is now thinking what they have done wrong and how will they put food on the table. Showing empathy is the best thing you can do. I often say “ I understand this is a shock and you must be feeling terrible, go home now and lets talk tomorrow when you have had time to digest and we will make an exit plan and a communication plan. We can talk in the office or on the phone I will call you and you can tell me what is more comfortable for you.”
  2. Have the letter ready for them with all of their benefits listed and when they will be paid, ensure they can take these home with them and digest.
  3. Don’t walk people offsite and cancel their access card and email on the spot. You have trusted this person for a long time so why stop now? Unless they have done something awful or unlawful, you would hope they are mature enough not to cause damage as they would want a reference later.
  4. Involve them in the exit, handover, notice and communication plan. Ask how long they need to handover their tasks, anything longer than a couple of weeks can be hard for all parties involved. If you feel they should handover quickly and pay out the rest of the notice, tell them they will be paid for the remainder of the notice period.
  5. To avoid being sued, you can often add a couple of weeks paid noticeand ask them to sign a legal waiver in order to receive this extra payment. Be generous with your notice payments if you can, this can help with avoiding court cases ( assuming you have followed all the correct procedures).
  6. Try and be honest about references if they want to put you down as a referee and you are not going to be helpful to them, then say “I am not the best person perhaps you could ask someone else?” I know alot of companies dont give references which is difficult for someone when they leave, I am personally not a fan of this type of policy.
  7. Offer someone for them to talk to once they have left, a contact in hr or outsourced counselling is very important.

Remember it always feels personal and we all deserve to leave a place of employment with our dignity intact.

Karen is a freelance HR Manager with a focus on medium size businesses and emerging tech companies. For more HR advice on how to manage terminations contact

what will you be doing in 2019 image

What will you be doing in 2019?

The last few weeks I have been speaking to people about their focus and hoe they want to spend their time.

Will you be effective in 2019?

The people I hang with are smart. Smart and passionate. They care about personal identity, about the government’s new encryption rights.

They are advocates for privacy and decentralisation of data. This is a noble cause and I can’t help but get caught up in the passion.

If you have one cause in 2019 what will it be? How much time will you spend on it?

If you have 4 key focuses what will they be? Do a quick whiteboard session about how you are spending your time. Does it look effective or are you spending 90 percent of your time on non revenue building activities? If you are you need to fix this fast.

In 2019, I will be focussing on things that matter to me: women in technology, education, helping my clients retain and helping them to fine-tune their teams. i.e. Helping my clients to be successful.

Take a moment at the end of the 2018, pre-Christmas frenzy to re-allign your focus for Q1 2019, you will be very happy you did! Learn to say no to the things that you don’t have time for in your top 4.

Build an effective time management strategy, I use calendal ( for meetings and block out the times when no one can book meetings at the time when I am most effective.

Say no to pointless meetings and coffees that just don’t make sense. Delegate to trusted parties the things you don’t have time to do yourself.

Make 2019 your most effective year!