When is the last time you bought something without doing some research? Remember, social media is the great equalizer in these situations. We live in a world where we check reviews on product and service sites like Amazon and Yelp, why shouldn’t the same idea apply for reference checking candidates?
As employers, when we are hiring new employees, we do everything we can to make sure it's a sure thing . After all, we don't want to deal with turnover and back-filling a role if we don't have to. We want to know what we are “getting into” with a candidate.
A reference can tell us things like how well they work with others. Whether or not they complete projects, or are the type to bite off more than they can chew. Think of reference checks as soliciting a customer review.
Verify the Facts
If nothing else, always verify employment dates and job title. But, if possible, get a reference from a past supervisor that can support, or contradict, your first impressions.
First Impresssions are always unreliable.
Sometimes when people don't have anything nice to say, they don't say anything at all but sometimes they do. And don’t forget, candidates are checking your references before they even apply for your job most times, on sites like Glassdoor and Indeed, so why can’t you/we/us check theirs, too?
Keep each Reference Confidential
We recommend kicking off the conversation by letting the reference know the conversation is confidential. Assure them you will not be sharing anything back to the candidate. Share information about the role so they know the kind of feedback you require.
Also, be sure to find out about the person you are talking to by learning about their role. This is important for building trust and to ensure they are, in fact, who they claim to be and qualified to be giving a reference (not Aunt Karen or Uncle Joe.) Here are some good questions to get the conversation started.
• What were his/her responsibilities at your company?
• What was the work environment like?
• What was your experience like working with this person?
• How does this person like to be rewarded and recognized?
• Was this employee a team player?
• Were they able to complete tasks individually?
• What would you say were this person’s best qualities?
• Did you find that their skills developed over time?
• How well was he/she able to (select a job responsibility or skill cited by candidate)?
• Was there any area that you wanted them to improve on?
• How did they generally respond to criticism and suggestions?
• Do you know anything about their work prior to them joining your company?
• Would you hire this employee again?
• Is there anything else you think we should know that would help us onboard him/her and set them up for success?
If you feel uncomfortable checking references, or you don't have the time, hire a company to do it for you! Reference Hunter is a great option for automating those reference checks. They even offer 3 free per month!