Conducting Effective Reference Checks

Conducting Effective Reference Checks

So you’ve found the perfect job candidate — congratulations! But before you make a firm offer of employment, it’s important to check their references to ensure you have the full picture of your potential new hire.   Checking their references can throw up all kinds of secrets and surprises you didn’t know about during the interview process. It’s your chance to confirm whether that person is who they say they are. Here are some best practices for carrying out reference checks.

Ask References Relevant Questions

Asking references to “describe” your candidate’s performance can result in vague answers that make recruiting harder. So think up specific questions that encourage more insightful responses about a prospective employee’s achievements, skills, and flaws.

Some questions you might want to ask references include:

  • Can you confirm the employee’s job title and length of employment?
  • What responsibilities did the employee have in your organization?
  • How would you describe the employee’s work ethic?
  • What are the employee’s biggest strengths and weaknesses?
  • What was the best and worst thing about working with the employee?

Asking a combination of closed- and open-ended questions can reveal insights about someone’s performance, helping you decide whether they are the right person for your role.

Another tip is to ask different questions for each reference you contact. That way, you can tailor questions depending on the company and the candidate’s previous job roles.

Contact More Than One Reference

Want to uncover lots of information about someone’s work history? The more references you contact, the better! A good rule of thumb is to reach out to all your candidate’s references from the previous five years. If you work in an industry that requires additional due diligence, such as healthcare, extend that timeframe to the last ten years.

Of course, employers have no obligation to reply to your reference requests, and some won’t. So asking several companies for information can help you decide whether a potential employee is a good fit for your organization.

Confirm Qualifications and Employment History

One of the most important aspects of employee referencing is checking work history and academic qualifications. Recent research shows that as many as 70% of workers lie on their resumes, so you’ll want to make sure all the information you have about a candidate is accurate.

Verifying someone’s work history is easy enough — just ask references for a candidate’s employment start and end dates. Confirming educational history can be a little trickier. You could ask a prospective employee to email you a copy of their diploma or an academic transcript. However, there’s a whole marketplace for fake degrees in some industries, so try contacting the school your candidate attended — or says they attended! Be prepared to wait a little while for a school to get back to you, though.

Use References to Assess a Candidate’s “Culture Fit”

Culture or cultural fit refers to how likely a candidate will align with your company’s culture and mission values. Referencing can help you determine whether someone will successfully assimilate into your organization.

For example, a reference check might reveal that a potential employee is a good team player. If teamwork is one of your company’s values, that individual could be the right person for a role. However, if referencing reveals someone was constantly late for work, and you value punctuality, you might want to choose someone else for the job.

Maintain Confidentiality During Referencing

While you’ll want to find out as much information about a candidate as possible, you’ll also need to respect their privacy during the referencing process. That means keeping all information provided by previous employers safe. Also, only collect data that’s relevant to your reference check and delete any information when you no longer need it.

For the sake of transparency, tell a potential employee that you’re about to carry out referencing. Doing so gives the individual a chance to reveal any negative information that might come out during a background check. Then they can present their side of the story.

Finding the Best Candidates for Your Role

Reference checks uncover insights into how a candidate performed in their previous jobs. That helps you decide whether they are a good fit for your organization.

That said, referencing is just one part of the recruiting process. Finding top talent for your team can be a huge challenge, especially if you have a vacancy you need to fill quickly. MRINetwork’s network of global advisors can help you find the best candidates, no matter your industry. Find your local office now and smash your hiring goals.