With more and more employers in workplaces today understanding the value and importance or making the correct hiring decisions the first time, it may seem surprising that the process of reference checking has declined significantly in recent years.
When you ask employers about this, their feedback is often that they don’t see the value in reference checking as it can be too easy for the prospective employee to either forge a written reference or line up a ‘friend’ as a verbal reference.
Whilst savvy applicants, modern technology and the short amount of time employers have to dedicate to this process have all impacted on how references should and can be done, the fact remains that past behaviour still is the very best predictor of future behaviour – so ruling the reference checking step out of your recruitment and selection is, in my opinion, crazy.
Reference Checks are not a waste of time and provide valuable and essential information about the suitability of an applicant, provided you follow some simple rules:
- Where possible conduct them verbally – you can tell so much by someone’s tone of voice and initial reaction to a question, you will never get this from a considered written response via e mail;
- Be thorough – don’t just ask broad questions which provide very little insight and details into the individual and their performance like, ‘were they good at the job’? Ask specific questions and feel free to ‘probe’ further if you are not happy with the responses;
- Conduct them with the right person – by that, I mean someone they have reported directly to – a supervisor or manager. Be sure it is this person by contacting them on an office number if possible and check with the Receptionist what their title is. Check the referees LinkedIn profile and other online and social media profiles to ensure they are who they propose to be; and
- Ask questions that are specific to the key duties, outcomes and attitudes required in the role – make a standard list of questions which you ask of all applicants referees. Combine questions about skills, job based performance, attitudes and behaviours, team fit, attendance and anything else relevant to the role and your team;
- Conduct multiple reference checks across different employers where possible – At least two, with different employers is ideal;
- Make sure the reference checks are with the most recent jobs possible – a lot can change in someone’s life, which may impact their work performance in say 10 years, so referees from years and years ago may hold less validity to the candidates current performance levels;
- If you still have question marks after all of this, there is probably good reason. Perhaps look at further reference checking, other assessments or consider other applicants if your reference checks are giving you cause for concern.