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11 tips for performing a reference check

Every employer knows staff members play a significant role in the overall success of the company. In fact, after good leadership, they are the second major factor that fuels the business to meets its objectives. Staff effort is essential in attracting and retaining customers, and playing a critical role in exceeding the needs of the clients.

It is vital that employers conduct a reference check to know whether the prospective staff member has the potential to steer the business to greater heights.

Nonetheless, there is more to conducting a reference check than meets the eye and to first-timers, it may sound easy, but if you ask those who hold them, they will tell you it is no walk in the park. Fortunately here are 11 tips for conducting a satisfactory check.

1. Don’t treat it as an option

It is normal for candidates to include references in their CV’s but some employers do not utilise them. If you are about to hire someone, the first tip is to take the references seriously. They are the ones who know about the applicant more than you and therefore getting information from them regarding your future employee should not be an option. In fact, it should be the central part of the whole hiring process because the references indicated are the ones who know about the capability of the person. Thus the first tip is to take the reference check with the urgency it deserves.

2. Get the signature

Before you go about inquiring about the applicant, it is essential that you obtain a sign from them. It will act as the green light here, and in case something comes up, you will have proof that the applicant had given you the go ahead. Most people do not take this seriously, but its time you know that this is a rule in the Fair credit reporting act which states that the employer must get consent from the applicant before using any third party member to conduct checks. So if you don’t, you can get sued. Thus prior to performing the audit ensure you have your prospective staff member sign up to allow you to do so.

3. Request for a diverse range of references

Request for up to 4 references, especially if the applicant has provided only one. Getting info from different people will help you know more about the person compared to when you talk to just one. Additionally, it keeps you safe from getting information from biased references. For instance, one person who did not like the applicant may give you false information just to prevent them from getting hired. So enquiring from a diverse range of people who give you positive info will help you distinguish the biased references from the genuine ones.

4. Ask for direct work references

If possible, ask for two or three references who had direct work contact with the candidate. The applicant’s current or previous manager are the most suitable ones not to mention immediate colleagues who worked with the applicant in the same department. Enquiring from someone who was in a different unit may not be helpful because they don’t know them well as the direct contacts do.

5. Ensure you include verbal reference checks

Most people are busy but setting up a meeting over coffee for an oral reference check will prove to be of more help than doing so on a phone call. It will enable you to not only get first-hand facts but also will allow you to see the reaction of the reference when you ask them a specific question. That will help a lot in evaluating the authenticity of their feedback.

6. Keep a detailed set of questions

The main point of conducting a reference check is to ask questions and get information. You should only ask the necessary questions. For instance in what capacity were you associated with the applicant? Which areas of their performance needs improvement? How did he/she relate to their colleagues and which ideas did he ever share with them? How was he able to do it? These are just some of the questions you can ask, but the point is to make sure you plan for the questions in advance.

7. Be ready for obstacles

Some people don’t like to be interrogated by an unknown person. Therefore, you should mentally prepare for any challenges which might come your way. Also, be ready for unexpected answers.

For instance, you thought an applicant is a reliable person only to be told that he/she is entirely unreliable. If this happens when you are ready for any answer, it won’t shatter your hopes like it would have done when you were not. Other times you may find that the reference is quite busy and cannot afford a chance to talk to you, in this case, ask them for a favourable time and call them later when they are free to feed you on any relevant info they may have regarding the applicant.

8. Make use of the hypothetical question

It is the unspoken rule of conducting reference checks that you only ask one hypothetical question. Therefore make sure you make the most of it by selecting the right one. Given that you just have one chance to ask it, it would only be right if you ask them whether they can re-employ the candidate if they were to apply to their company again. The way they answer it determines whether the applicant fits your organisation.

9. Handle the questions and feedback tactfully

Most applicants put those who they know will speak well of them as references. Who wouldn’t anyway? Moreover, the references will be prepared to receive a phone call from you and the same way they will have ready answers. So avoid direct questions and be tactful with them to avoid getting biased info. Lastly, document the answers you get for future use.

10. Beware of fake referees

According to a recent survey, only two out of five employers take the time to conduct a check. Thanks to that, the candidates will place fake references on their CV’s just to impress you. Also, most of them are desperate for the job, so they will do anything it takes to get it including fake referees. Ensure you are talking to the right person by using tactful questions. A phony referee will tend to hesitate if you ask them a question they weren’t ready for. Apart from wise enquires, take the time to perform a background check by using the provided details to see whether you can find them on CrunchBase, Bloomberg or LinkedIn.

11. Look at the future

Lastly do not just focus on getting a hire but also consider the future working relationship by knowing what motivates the candidate and what causes them not to maximise their potential. Knowing this info will help a lot because you will now know which buttons to press and which ones to avoid in future to get success for your business.

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