The Importance of Reference Checks

The Importance of Reference Checks

Here at eRecruit we know how crucial it is that the right person is selected for the position you’re offering, in order to save you significant amounts of money and time in the long run. Reference checks can provide you with specific information about your applicants that can be used to both eliminate and elevate your final candidates. Unfortunately, many companies see reference checks as just a formality and they fail to use them effectively to reach their judgement. Here’s how to ensure your reference checks provide you with enough information about your candidates, so you can make an informed decision about who you hire.

Establish trust

A reference-giver is less likely to provide you with useful information if it’s clear that you’re only ringing them to discover any gossip involving your candidate or to just verify information you already know. This shows a lack of professionalism therefore you are likely to get limited answers that provide you with little guidance in terms of reaching your decision. On the other hand, if you take the time to introduce yourself and explain exactly what you’re looking for in a candidate, you will be able to establish a good rapport with the reference-giver. Your efforts will then be rewarded by answers that will give you a good idea of how the candidate in question will fit in with your organisation.

Speak with the right people.

There’s no use speaking with someone who barely knows or has never worked alongside your applicant. You should aim to talk to a manager that oversaw the work of and interacted frequently with the candidate. Previous co-workers are also able to provide detailed references as they have worked closely with the candidate often in a variety of different settings. Ideally, with the applicant’s permission, you will be able to speak with a number of different references who’ve worked with your candidate in different situations. For example, as well as the previous manager and co-worker, you could also contact a client which your applicant had built a relationship with during their previous role. The answers you get from each source will enable you to establish a detailed overview of the candidate from a number of different perspectives, allowing you to judge how they will fit in with your company culture and discover if they are truly suitable for the position. Avoid contacting personal references as it’s extremely unlikely that you will receive a non-biased view. Instead, ask the candidate to replace this reference with somebody they have worked with in a voluntary placement or extra-curricular capacity.

Ask the right questions.

There are two forms of data you need to gain information on when speaking with your reference-giver:

Hard data – proof of the candidate’s competencies and skills, as well as their role in the organisation including specific responsibilities and their performance.

Qualitative – examples of the applicant’s style when it comes to communication and management, strengths and weaknesses, as well as their attitude at work and interpersonal skills.

Here are some examples of questions whose answers will provide you with valuable information about your candidates in order for you to make the right decision.

  • How would you describe your experience working alongside this person?
  • What personal qualities do you associate with _____?
  • What impact has this person had on the organisation and/or their department?
  • How would you describe their style of leadership?
  • What sort of work environment suits _____ and will help him/her to succeed?
  • How has he/she handled having to make difficult decisions?
  • How does _____ cope with conflict?
  • In which areas does he/she need the most support?
  • Would you ever work with ____ again? If not, why?
  • Is there any additional information you believe I should know before the candidate moves any further forward in our hiring process?

So next time you’re down to the final candidates for a position, adjust your recruitment strategy when it comes to reference checks: use them wisely to ensure you hire the right candidate. Taking the time to gather as much information about your final applicants as possible will help you to make an informed decision, therefore the person you choose for the role is far more likely to succeed.