6 Areas to Probe During a Reference Check

     
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Start date, termination date, and job title are about all anyone expects of a typical reference check nowadays.

As a result, many hiring managers and recruiters half-heartedly plod through the process without much enthusiasm or belief in its value.

This sort of reference check generally yields very little helpful data as a result. If you want information you can use, you’ll have to dig a little.

Here are six areas to focus during a reference check:

1.Job Tasks and Performance

Exaggerating job duties is a common ploy of resume fraudsters. When checking references, ask specific and detailed questions about the potential employee’s job tasks or behaviors.

2. Job Title

Not every job title is an accurate reflection of the holder’s scope of responsibilities, and some individuals resolve that discrepancy by assigning themselves a new and better job title designed to impress would-be employers. Other individuals simply give themselves jobs they never held.

Regardless of the motivation behind the act, however, you’d be wise to think twice about hiring someone who’s content to secure a job through deception. When performing a reference check, you may ask for confirmation of job title and resist the temptation to gloss over any differences between what you’ve been told by the candidate and what you’re seeing now.

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3. Educational Degrees and Professional Licenses/Credentials

According to US News and World Report common resume lies including fake college degrees and fake professional licenses and credentials. Fortunately, nonexistent degrees and credentials are pretty easy to sniff out, with a little probing. Ask to see official college transcripts, contact licensing agencies directly, or for a modest fee engage the services of a group like the National Student Clearinghouse.

4. Reasons for Leaving Last Job

There could be a good reason a candidate would rather not reveal all the circumstances surrounding his departure from a previous job. For example, personality conflicts are very common in the workplace, but many hiring managers and recruiters are prone to dismissing any potential employee with even a hint of controversy in her background, so candidates take pains to keep certain details private. That’s probably okay.

What’s not okay is hiring a thief, embezzler, or pathological liar. While it may be true that everyone deserves a second chance, some people are completely uninterested in rehabilitation and instead are on the lookout for the next mark. You don’t want to offer that person a job, but you won’t know he is that person without doing your research.

5. Gaps in Employment History

It’s not unheard of for someone to take a break from his or her corporate gig to raise a family, write a book, travel, freelance, or pursue some other interest, but it’s also not unheard of for someone to spend time between jobs in jail or working in a company that never actually existed. Use the reference check to find out before welcoming this person into your company.

6. Dates of Employment

Another common resume trick is “fudging” dates of employment to artificially increase years of experience or cover gaps in employment. During a reference check, you may want to confirm both the month and year of start and end dates. Candidates often forget the exact day they started or left a job, but forgetting the month and year, unless on purpose, is less common.

Checking references should be a regular—not rote—part of your hiring process. So rather than approaching the reference check with low expectations and leaving it at that, make the time count.

Can you think of other areas to probe during a reference check interview?

Nasty Job-Seeking Tactics

About The Author

Yves Lermusi (aka Lermusiaux) is CEO & co-founder of Checkster. Mr. Lermusi is a well known public speaker and a Career and Talent industry commentator. He is often quoted in the leading business media worldwide, including Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Business Week, and Time Magazine. His articles and commentary are published regularly in online publications and business magazines. Mr. Lermusi was named one of the “100 Most Influential People in the Recruiting Industry” and his blog has been recognized as the best third party blog.