How to Conduct Reliable Reference Checks

Let’s talk about reference checking. During the hiring process, employers will use a candidate’s references to get a better idea of who they are as a person and how they act in the work place from someone who has actually experienced them firsthand.  This makes it common sense for the candidate to only offer up references that will represent them well. This is why the task of checking references has become seen as a waste of time to many employers, and some have done away with it completely, but this is not the solution! Reference checking can provide you with the best and most honest representation of the candidate, if done correctly. To help you out, here’s four ways to make sure you’re getting the truth out of those references:

  • Ask for Specifics. Rather than allowing the candidate to write down their own references, ask them for the references you want to hear from. For example, ask specifically for the contact information of their direct supervisor or manager rather than just requesting ‘work related references.’ Also, make sure you receive a diversified group of references (i.e. one from a manager, one from a peer, one from a customer, etc.)
  • Ask the Right Questions. New reference checking technology has come up with new ways to ask questions about the candidate without making the reference feel that they are representing them in a ‘bad’ way, or giving any negative feedback. One way to do this is to make questions open ended by using phrases like, “Tell me about…” Try to avoid yes or no questions so you can get longer and more descriptive responses. To end the conversation, however, a good yes or no question to ask would be, “Would you hire this person again?”
  • Check Out the Facts. Over 50% of job seekers have admitted to lying on their resumes. One of the most commonly lied about facts on a candidate’s resume is their education. Calling the school or university they claimed to have attended and asking for verification on their degree is always a smart idea. However, thanks to many social media sites, such as LinkedIn or Facebook, nowadays catching candidates in these lies can be much easier. Also, new technology is being developed to help with fact and background checks. So soon it will be made effortless!
  • Lastly, Use Statements from the Interview/Resume. Whatever the candidate says about their former employers during the interview, or has written down on their resume, stand as excellent reference check material. When on the phone with the former employer, bring up what the candidate said. For example, something like, “Randy tells me that he really enjoyed working for you,” or “Alicia said she made a lot of friends working here.” It’s also not a bad idea to take this opportunity to check other not so personal facts, like the salary they stated they were getting or any kind of promotions they claimed to have received.

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