Best Practices for Conducting Reference Checks

Best Practices for Conducting Reference Checks

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As a hiring manager, one of the most important steps in the hiring process is conducting reference checks on potential hires. Reference checks can provide valuable insight into a candidate’s work history, skills, and character, helping you make informed decisions about who to hire. However, it’s important to conduct reference checks properly to get accurate and valuable information. In this blog post, we’ll discuss some best practices for conducting reference checks on potential hires!

Start with a Plan

As a business owner or manager, making a plan for conducting reference checks is crucial to determining which potential employees are suited to the position you are hiring for. A well-planned and organized approach to the reference-checking process can ensure that all relevant information is collected and that the references are given an opportunity to provide an accurate description of their experiences working with a candidate. Moreover, creating such an action plan allows time to be prioritized efficiently so that all references can be contacted within a reasonable time frame. Having a plan also serves as an important step in protecting your company against any potential legal action if any information is left unchecked or misrepresented.

There’s no need to make your plan overly complicated; focus on what you need in order to build an achievable plan with clear instructions.

Ask open-ended questions to references

When it comes to asking references for important information related to job candidates, it is vital to ask open-ended questions—asking detailed questions that require more than simply a “yes” or “no” answer will dramatically increase the value of the reference. This type of questioning can yield insightful answers about a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses that traditional interviews cannot discover. 

While keeping questions open-ended will result in greater depth provided by the reference, it is essential to remain professional and respectful when engaging with references. That way, you are sure to get honest and reliable information leading to better hiring decisions.

Ask questions like:

  • Can you describe your working relationship with the candidate?
  • What were some of the candidate’s biggest accomplishments while working for your company?
  • How would you rate the candidate’s communication skills?

Be prepared to take notes when calling references

When calling references, ensure you have a pen, notepad, and a list of key questions ready for your conversation. While on the call, you should note down any points and quotes that could be useful for your hiring decision. That way, nothing significant will be missed, and you can review them afterward to make sure each key point was addressed. Taking notes during calls with references is a great way to avoid any mistakes; it will also help ensure all the necessary steps are taken during your job search process.

Verify Information when calling references

Whenever one is asked to provide references, it is important to verify the information provided by those references. First and foremost, confirm details such as job titles, dates of employment, and responsibilities with each reference. If this information comes back inaccurate, it could be a red flag. Additionally, when a reference has the same last name as the candidate that provided the reference, that could be a sign that the reference is a relative of the candidate.

When verifying references for C-suite positions, some companies will double-check credentials with educational institutions. This type of thorough background and reference checking ensures that the employee has a reliable information source in making their decisions about the candidate’s suitability for a position.

Look for Patterns

Completing thorough reference checks is a critical part of the hiring process, and paying attention to patterns in the responses you receive can be particularly informative. It’s important to note if multiple references mention the same strengths or weaknesses in the candidate’s work performance or personality traits. Take into account that these reference checks are coming from people with different perspectives, so encountering consistency among the responses can often provide invaluable insight into whether this person would make a suitable hire.

Keep it Legal

When conducting reference checks on job applicants, it’s key to remember that there are legal considerations that must be considered. You want to ensure that the questions you’re asking about a particular candidate are related to the job and its requirements. Furthermore, it’s important to ensure none of the questions violate any local, state, or federal laws regarding discrimination. If a potential hire suspects they were discriminated against as part of a reference check, they could challenge your company in court. This could mean significant fines, reputational damage, and loss of time – so it’s worth taking the necessary precautions to protect yourself and your business.

Respect Confidentiality

It is essential to ensure that potential employers obtain valuable information on a job candidate while maintaining complete respect for personal privacy and confidentiality. You must not ask any irrelevant questions that may lead to the divulgence of confidential details or the breaching of privacy in any capacity. Furthermore, it is important to remain focused on the job performance of the candidate in question by asking precise questions pertaining to their specific duties. While it is understandable that you may be tempted to seek out more juicy details, such discretion will ensure trust when dealing with references regarding candidates for employment.

Follow Up

Once you have conducted a reference check, it is important to follow up with any further questions or resolve any ambiguities. Follow-up inquiries help build a complete picture of the candidate and equip you with the understanding to make an educated decision when hiring. However, if you are unable to make contact by phone, sending an email can provide an easy alternative. While it may take a bit longer to get an answer, and you may feel the pressure to act quickly on a candidate’s resume, this method is a great way to ensure that all answers have been thoroughly documented and accounted for before making any decisions.

Keep in mind that 69% of employers have reported that they have changed their minds about a candidate after speaking with their references; if you are unable to get in touch with a reference, keep trying because it can help you with your final hiring decision!

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