However, doing the cloak and dagger stuff of asking people to observe candidates is not the only way you can find actual behavior patterns of people. There is a far more traditional way - it's called the Assessment Center.
The issues with these selection processes is that it takes time and energy and hence are used only for selection of high impact roles. Checking references, if done properly is also a great way to find out behavioral patterns of the past.
Of course, the correct person should be doing the reference check and should be asking the right questions. Larry Bossidy talks about a bad hire in his book Execution, and lays the fault on his (Larry) not knowing the person from whom he got the reference check done.
Some tips for effective reference checks:
- Call and give notice of the check
- Ask specific behavioral questions
- Tell the role you are considering the candidate for and ask if you are setting him up for success or otherwise.
Who knows, maybe a great reference check might give you additional candidates ("hmm, so you have such a role? Maybe X won't be great fit for reasons A, B and C...however you might want to see Y who works on company LMN")
Accountant Careers.co.uk provides accounting jobs in the UK via its employment Web site.