How to Check References

October 7, 2019
    

The reference check: this vital step in the hiring process isn’t as easy as it used to be. Previous employers are legally obligated to disclose only the bare-minimum on hopeful candidates. Some businesses have even faced litigations for disclosing too much, or too little, information about a former worker, which makes the phone-call reference check a little tricky. And with social media checks, pointed interview questions, and running backgrounds, there’s a lot of other points to cover to ensure you’re hiring the right person.

Luckily, as is for many problems that may arise throughout the hiring process, there is a solution. In this article you’ll find techniques, products, and detailed advice that will take some of the guesswork out of reference checking, and allow you to quickly hire top-quality candidates.

How to Check References

  1. Consider timing. In the past, it had been considered a best practice to obtain reference checks only after a conditional offer of employment was extended to the candidate. However, with new tools and automations, you may find it an indispensable tool for narrowing down candidates before involving them in lengthy rounds of interviews. When done correctly, early reference checks can help you avoid time wasted on candidates that were in the end a bad fit.
  2. Ask permission. Many states require that companies obtain a signed consent form from the candidate before performing reference checks. Although it does not always necessitate a formal process, it is ethically preferable that a hiring manager informs a candidate that references will be checked, or that they gain explicit authorization to do so. This will also help to establish a sense of trust and interpersonal deference between the new hire and the organization.
  3. Seek a variety of perspectives. Talk to everyone at your organization who interviewed the candidate to gain valuable feedback from multiple sources. Doing so will help you to identify key questions and gaps in the candidate’s information to address with a referee. Ask all interviewers to state their concerns, their follow-up questions, anything they might be confused by, and any other input they may have.

    When sourcing references, work with the candidate to identify ideal referees given the context of the position which they are entering. It may be beneficial to askto a candidate’s former peers and subordinates, as well as their boss, to gain a clear picture of their work history.
  4. Describe the position. References are better able to provide you with useful candidate information if they understand the specific requirements of the job being offered. Give referees a detailed job description, performance expectations, and daily tasks associated with the position to help them contextualize the feedback they give you on your candidate.
  5. Verify applicant information. Confirm dates of employment, and titles held by the candidate at the referee’s company. Check these facts against the responses given by the candidate on his / her resume.
  6. DO ask detailed job-related questions. If you are able, ask specific and open-ended questions which correlate with information in the candidate’s application, as well as their answers to interview questions relating to job history and performance. For example:
    - What were the candidate’s primary responsibilities at your company?
    - How would you rate the candidate’s reliability and dependability?
    - What are the candidate’s greatest professional strengths? Their greatest weaknesses?
    - What additional skills and training do you feel the candidate could benefit from?
    - Would you hire the candidate again?

    Be aware of any glaring inconsistencies which may jump out at you. It may become necessary to address discrepancies with the candidate, or seek other referees to verify information. It’s important to note that the more references you gather feedback from, the higher quality of your overall data.
  7. DO NOT ask personal questions. A company may be liable if you ask any questions relating to age, race, sex, gender, orientation, and in some states salary during the reference check interview. Avoid risk of litigation by keeping questions strictly to work history and performance. For more information, read our article about The Legal Issues of Reference Checking here. It includes a list of topics to avoid.
  8. Employ a reference check solution. The process of manual reference checking -- seeking out referee contacts, conducting a lengthy interview, etc. -- can be costly and time-consuming, and can often yield inconsistent or biased information. There exist some lines of products which mitigate such problems by streamlining and automating the task at hand.

    Checkster’s automated reference checking tool saves you time and money by placing the responsibility of chasing down references onto the candidate. All you have to do is select a reference survey template (fully customizable too), and invite the candidate using their name and email address. The candidate will then invite their referees to complete the surveys. After the checks are complete, Checkster automatically analyzes data from multiple references, instantly providing you with actionable insghts in easy-to-read reports.
  9. Document everything. Whether you’re using an automated solution or still doing things the old-fashioned way, keep detailed records of all reference interviews conducted. Include the name of the referee, their title, the date of your conversation, and any notes for future analysis. This helps with compliance, or simply to serve as a complete record in case any issues or questions concerning the new hire crop up later down the line.

Reference checking is an essential part of the hiring process that doesn’t need to give you any gray hair. Just follow our guide, and check out our easy reference-checking solution, to get started now.

The Easiest Reference Check Solution

For no-headache reference checking, Reference Insights automates your reference checks, giving you unparalleled visibility into candidate qualifications. Our software addresses all of the above points easily:

  1. Timing
    With reference automation it takes just a few minutes to initiate a check. This will allow you to check references earlier in the process, on more candidates, easily weeding out any who are a bad fit or not qualified for the position.
  2. Permission
    Since a candidate sends the invitations to the references directly, not only is the candidate automatically giving explicit permission to check their references, but they enjoy a better experience, with involvement and transparency throughout the process from beginning to end.
  3. Perspectives
    It’s easy to collect feedback from multiple references with Checkster. In fact, the average candidate check of our customers returns 6-8 reference responses. With reports including percentages showing probability of rehire and overall performance, making a final decision will be as easy as 1,2,3.
  4. Position Description
    Since the reference feedback is given online, references are given plenty of context about the candidate and the position they are applying for. Checkster provides templates for an easy start, but you can also customize your reference check survey to include any information or questions you like.
  5. Verification
    Reference Insights includes information about the candidate’s work timeline and working relationship with the referee. Reports clearly highlight any discrepancies for you so that they won’t be missed.
  6. Job Fit / Candidate Qualifications
    Checkster’s digital platform provides templates of reference questions that are validated by independent I/O psychologists and found to be accurate predictors of performance and turnover. The report insights include detailed feedback on the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses, with easy to read graphs including a top line summary, visual graphs of the qualifications of your raters, fraud alerts (if any) and a handy relative ranking analysis summarizing the needs of the role needs vs the candidate’s attributes.
  7. No Personal Questions
    Using Checkster’s templates provides you a good foundation for asking legal, relevant and useful questions. Again, refer to our article about The Legal Issues of Reference Checking here for a list of topics to avoid.
  8. Automation
    With Reference Insights you’ll save an average of one hour per candidate. If you do the math, how much time would you save each week?
  9. Documentation
    Checkster automatically keeps a full record of questions and responses for every reference for every candidate, including the detailed reports. This can be used to confidently keep your company fully compliant, or just serve as a reliable HR record you can access at any time it is needed.

To find out more about how Checkster can help you hire and retain employees who love their work, and see testimonials to the effectiveness of our exit survey, schedule a demo here.