5 Tips for Conducting Effective Reference Checks

Your company has an urgent need to fill a vacant position. You are in the process of hiring and believe you have landed the right candidate for the job. You want to get your new staff on board so your clients can continue getting services. No matter how good the resume of the candidate may look, you need to pause and conduct a thorough reference check before you can hire the services of your potential employee. Remember, hiring is an evaluation process that involves many aspects and reference checks are one of them. A reference check will land you the most qualified candidate for a position. It gives you an opportunity to:

  • Understand the strengths and weaknesses of the candidate
  • Verify the employment history of the applicant
  • Verify the information that the applicant provides at the interview
  • Understand the work behavior of the applicant

Conducting an effective reference check involves the following five things:

 Knowing the Work References of the Candidate

A simple way to determine the work references is to request the information from the candidate. Remember, your goal is to access the previous workmates or managers of the job applicant so they can provide you with all the relevant information regarding your potential employee. Ideal references may include:

  • Previous and current direct managers of the applicant. These are the most ideal people to seek information from because they give the most accurate information about the candidate. Although some of the previous managers may not be able to remember the applicant well, current managers provide the exact work habit of the candidate because they know the candidate well. It is crucial for the candidate to provide references who know and remember him well.

In the absence of previous or current direct managers, suitable alternatives may include:

  • Workmates
  • Tutors and professors, especially, if the applicant is a student
  • Volunteer coordinators where the candidate has very little or no experience

It is worth noting that co-workers may not give accurate information, especially, if they share a close relationship with the candidate. Some may want to exaggerate the information because they do not want their colleague to miss out on the vacancy. Hence, co-workers should be among your last options.

Preparing Questions for References

You do not want to take much time interrogating the references because they probably have other duties to accomplish. You need to be brief and concise when seeking information from them. A simple way to ensure that your conversation with references runs briefly without compromising the quantity and quality of the information needed is to prepare your questions in advance. Design the questions in a way that will help you get all the relevant information about the candidate without taking longer time than is necessary. Some of the relevant questions to ask include:

  • To what level has the candidate mastered the job he is applying for?
  • What is the work performance of the applicant?
  • What are his weaknesses and strengths?
  • Is it true that the applicant is or was once your employee?
  • Does the candidate possess the right skills and attitude needed for the job vacancy?
  • Would you be interested in working with the candidate again in future?
  • How does the applicant relate with his co-workers and seniors workers in the workplace
  • What was the candidate’s greatest achievement in the workplace?
  • What was the greatest challenge the applicant faced and how did he deal with the situation?

Booking an Appointment With the References in Advance

References, especially, those in managerial positions, have a busy schedule. Some have to attend a series of strategic meetings in a single week. You do not have to fix yourself into their schedule. Instead, allow them to fix you. Call the references in advance and schedule a phone call with them. Ask them when they will be free so you do not become a nuisance to them when they are busy. Since some of them may be too busy, they may not remember that you scheduled a phone call with them. Also, remember running companies and big corporations involve many eventualities that may need their attention. Send them a reminder when it is just about time.

Addressing Any Obstacles

Retrieving information about a person may be difficult, especially, if the references are not willing to give the information. Additionally, there could be other factors that make it difficult for you to get the information. To avoid such obstacles, you need to:

  • Comply with the requirements of the references. Some references may prefer completing a questionnaire. Be sure to prepare the template and send them through an email or any other channel according to their preference.
  • Have most current contact information of the references since some of them may have changed their contacts. Ask the applicant to look for the most up-to-date information.
  • Ask the applicant to inform the references in advance that you will call.
  • Some companies prohibit their employees from giving information about their former workers. If this is the case, call and request the reference to provide personal information about the applicant.

Comparing Information From Various References

Since some references may give misleading information out of the fear that the candidate may be disqualified, it is advisable to compare and contrast information from various sources in order to determine its veracity. Typically, it recommended that the candidate provides at least three references. You may not know if some of the references are close friends or even blood relatives. If the information from different sources seems to differ sharply, then you will need to seek other references. However, there is no assurance that all the references will give similar information. Slight differences are normal. For instance, when asking about the work performance of the candidate, one reference may comment “good” while the others may say the candidate is “excellent”. Be sure to ask for specific examples so you do not disqualify the candidate on the basis of such minor disparities.

In a nutshell, a reference check is a key ingredient of the hiring process. Because of this, it should be conducted correctly and with caution. Remember, you are seeking vital information and the references may choose to give wrong information. If properly applied, the tips in this article will make your reference check process smooth and successful.


Leave a comment