Negative references on job applicants are often more revealing than positive ones.
If you really want to get to know a job candidate, don't ask just for the usual references during an interview. Try asking for negative references -- people with whom the applicant didn't get along.
Phil Thomas, chairman of the Thomas Group Inc., an Irving, Tex., consulting firm, has found that negative references are often more revealing than positive ones. While most job applicants will say initially they can't think of anyone who didn't like them, persistence will almost always result in some names -- names that the surprised applicant probably hasn't had time to screen mentally. Those negative references and the potential hire's explanation of the problems invariably give Thomas a more balanced picture of the person's strengths and weaknesses.