How to Conduct Reference Checks as an Employer

Do you know how to check references? Follow this guide for our expert tips on checking professional references properly.

6 minutes

7th of January, 2022 Adecco

Do you know how to check the references of your candidates? Follow this guide for our expert tips on checking professional references properly.

job seeker applying to a job

If you have a promising candidate that seems to check all the right boxes, your next step should be to conduct reference checks based on the information they’ve given you. This is one of the most important steps in the talent hiring process. A candidate’s track record is one of the most accurate indicators of future performance, so make sure you know how to check someone’s references properly before hiring them!

Accurately checking someone’s professional references can also help you avoid hiring the wrong person. This is important to consider, as hiring someone who isn’t qualified for the job can be very costly to your organization.

In this blog post, we’ll cover some of the fundamentals when it comes to candidate references. Read on for 4 top reference-checking tips that you can implement at your company immediately!

Get the candidate’s consent to check references

While your candidate will likely have given you a few references on their resume or upon request, it’s always recommended to get their consent before contacting references in any way.

It’s also best practice not to use the candidate’s current employer unless they explicitly tell you they don’t mind. Many candidates look for new work opportunities before they inform their current employer. If you reach out to their employer without their consent, you may be jeopardizing their employment.

If your candidate hasn’t given you references yet, ask for the contact details of immediate supervisors or managers. Avoid close colleagues as these may be biased references. If your candidate is a new graduate and doesn’t have an immediate supervisor reference to offer, ask them if they have any mentors or educators that might provide insight into their work ethic and future professional performance.

Set the tone for a constructive conversation when checking references

When you contact a reference, the way you frame the conversation is key to getting the information you need about a potential employee.

Don’t tell the reference about your positive or negative thoughts about the candidate. You don’t want to influence what they say or how they talk about the candidate in question. Try and remain as neutral as possible when asking questions. If you push the reference to give a certain response, you’re probably not getting accurate information and could be undermining your recruitment process.

Explain that you’re weighing the decision carefully and as much information they can provide will be useful. Assure the reference that your conversation is private and will not get back to the candidate—that way they won’t fear providing negative feedback.

Check references by asking tailored questions

Avoid questions that are too open ended like “What’s the candidate like?” if you don’t want generic responses such as “They’re awesome.” You should take the time to prepare your questions in advance and make them specific to the duties you expect the candidate to perform.

Here are a few example questions to give you an idea of what to ask:

  • What particular skills did the candidate contribute to your team?
  • What were the candidate’s strengths?
  • What were the candidate’s areas in need of improvement?
  • How would you expect the candidate to contribute to a project with tight deadlines and close collaboration?

Recruiters often forget to inform references about the duties and responsibilities that their candidate will have at their new job. This makes it harder for the reference to tell you whether the candidate has the skillset and knowledge needed. By giving the reference a brief description of the job, you allow them to provide more relevant insight. This in turn makes it much easier for you to come to an informed hiring decision.

Confirm candidate and employment details when checking references

Unfortunately, it is possible for a candidate to submit fake references. That’s why it’s important to confirm employment details as thoroughly as possible. You may spot inaccuracies that identify the reference as false, or you may discover the candidate exaggerated some job duties.

Here are some of the details you should closely double-check with each reference to ensure the information is genuine:

  • Full name of reference
  • Candidate’s job title
  • Department within the company
  • Detailed job responsibilities
  • Experience with software or machinery
  • Dates of employment
  • Reason for leaving the job

If you’re hiring for a critical position or a high-profile leadership job, consider hiring a reference fraud detection service. This will ensure your candidate is who they say they are and could help you avoid costly mistakes that disrupt your organization.

Ask reference check questions about EQ and soft skills

There’s no denying that soft skills and emotional intelligence are more important than ever in a remote world. That’s why you should ask references about your candidate’s performance related to teamwork, time management, problem-solving, communication, decision-making and stress management.

This information will give you a better idea about how your candidate might perform when working from home or with little supervision. It also gives you some insight into how they’ll integrate into their team if they continue to work remotely in the future.

The conclusion on reference checks

After reading the points we’ve laid out in this article, it should be clear that properly checking references is a must. Doing so gives you the confidence that you’re making the correct hiring decision, saves you money and improves the success of new hires.

If you need a hand with finding and selecting the right candidates, Adecco Canada is here to help. We have years of experience hiring top professionals in different industries all over the country. We’d love to help you get the talent you need to grow your organization, so contact us today to get started!