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Hello! Welcome back to our blog. In this article, we wanted to go over the art of making reference checks to help you identify the best way to validate a candidate’s references. This is sometimes tricky as the listed managers may not be valid, available or willing to provide you with enough information on the candidate. If you are wondering if it is worth it to do a reference check or when to do it, this blog will be of help. 


Why do a reference check?

Validity of the references. The most common reason to check for references is to first and foremost verify if these are real or faked. If the candidate has put down friends or unreal references then that is an indicator of their ability to be honest. This will tell you if the candidate is serious about getting the job or not.

Additional information on the candidate. Talking to previous managers and owners where the candidate used to previously work will give you a good insight into the relationship they had, the candidates work ethic, soft skills and qualifications. It will also tell you why they left their job, how they worked with teams and managed projects.

Tips and advice if hired. A reference check gives you the ability to ask the previous managers and owners what they advise in terms of managing that candidate. They can give you tips on what keeps them motivated and what style of management suits the candidate best. 


How best to conduct a reference check?

Start early 

Many end up doing their reference checks right before they are ready to make an offer to the candidate. This will lead to issues if the reference does not clear or if they give negative information about the candidate. Checking the references early on when you are considering three or four candidates will save you a lot of time later and will help you filter candidates who’s references do not check out.

Get consent and notify those involved

Even though it may be custom to check references, it is always best to notify the candidate and interviewers for consent to go ahead and contact who is listed on their resume. Getting consent is key so that it does not negatively affect the candidate’s current employment. This will also help you make sure the references are available and not out of office. When making the call, you should express to the reference that you have consent to discuss with them about the candidate.

Gather what you want to find out

Next you should gather what information you feel is missing from the resume or you would like more clarification on. Discuss with others involved in the interview process to identify what you should probe the person you will be talking to. Being prepared with your key questions will help guide you through and get important information on the candidate. Seek specific answers, ask why and how so when given generic or vague answers.

Explain it is confidential

Let the person you are talking to know that your discussion with them is confidential. This will make them feel more relaxed about telling you more information on the candidate. They may end up revealing information which you wish to clarify later when interviewing or discussing with the candidate without revealing the reference. 

Ask for advice and take notes

After asking your key questions, kindly request advice they may have on working with the candidate. Make sure to take notes as it will save you valuable time later on if you end up hiring the person. Getting information on how to later manage your hire will give you a head start in working with them instead of finding out down the road. 

Don’t ask personal questions

Asking personal questions is not allowed and might get you into legal problems. Stay off questions that touch on race, age, gender, disability, marital status and family. These are considered discriminatory questions.  


Key questions to ask on a reference check

  • In what position and for how long did the candidate work with you?
  • What was it like working with the candidate?
  • Why did the candidate leave the job?
  • What did you see as the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses?
  • How would you describe the candidates’ teamwork?
  • Can you tell me an instance where the candidate managed a work task?
  • How did you assess the candidate in your last performance review?
  • Would you recommend the candidate for the job and why?
  • Are there any other references that worked closely with the candidate?
  • What advice would you offer if we hired the candidate?
  • Remember to thank them for their time!


What to do if they only give limited information?

Sometimes, the managers or human resources may only be willing to give basic information. However, they may not turn down your questions if you are asking for advice. Also remind them that they would also wish to have reference checks if they were hiring someone so that they would consider taking time to speak with you. 

If all else fails, ask if there may be other people who are closer to the candidate that you can speak to. Ask them if the person would be willing to provide a reference for the candidate so that you keep them in consideration for the job. 

Finally, if you do not get enough information or a series of vague answers then the candidate may not have given you good references or they may have not had the best performance at their previous jobs. This will give you something to consider as you weigh it against their skills, qualifications and interview performance. 

Remember the key aspects you are searching for in reference checks are validity, consistency and any additional information that may support you if you hire the person. The goal of the reference check should not be to disqualify the candidate but to make sure you have all the information to hire the right person for your business.

If you would like further information or assistance in conducting your reference checks simply get in touch with one of our experts. AJ Connect offers first class recruitment services to businesses in the UK.

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