Do you thoroughly vet references ahead of making a hiring decision on that applicant? If you answered no, then this blog is just for you.

It doesn’t matter how impressive someone’s qualifications or CV are, following up with a comprehensive reference check is due diligence that you need to do on each and every candidate you consider hiring. It’s easy to become swept up by what seems like the perfect applicant, but the star employee on paper doesn’t always give you the full picture. Plus, when applying for a new job opportunity of course a candidate is going to try to paint themselves in the best possible light. Sometimes, applicants can become a little too enthusiastic when embellishing their application.

To really gain an understanding of the candidate, beyond what’s written on their CV and application, speaking to a current or former employer is invaluable. These people know and understand the candidate best in a work environment; their advice can help you to hire the right employee or save money by preventing you from hiring the wrong person.

Where to Start

When you considered the candidate for the position, which part of their professional profile contributed towards this? Perhaps it was a specific experience, an impressive qualification or a particular skill set. Whichever pieces of information jumped out at you, you need to cross-check these with a former employer to make sure that the candidate is indeed the best pick for the company.

Best Practices

A candidate should, of course, be made aware that a reference check will be conducted. Not only is this essential for building trust when it comes to a working relationship, but they can also help to ensure that the reference is provided within a timely manner.

It never hurts to double-check who you will be speaking to – just in case a candidate has listed their friendly-coworker (who is bound to give a glowing reference) as the CEO. Plus, it helps to ensure you’re speaking to someone i.e. the former manager of the employee, who will be best placed to give a professional reference.

Bear in mind that the person you need to speak to is likely to be busy, so try to limit the call to a maximum of 10-15 minutes.

Suggested Reference Check Questions

We’ve put together a list of some of the most important reference check questions that you should always ask. Typically these tend to fall into three categories – fact-checking, skills and company fit. Make sure you ask a few from each section to ensure you have a well-rounded overview of the candidate.

Fact-Checking

– What is your relationship to the candidate?
– How long have you worked with the candidate?
– Can you confirm the candidate’s job title and period of employment?
– Can you provide an overview of the candidate’s experience?
– What is/was their reason for choosing to leave the company?

Skill Assessment

– The candidate has applied for the role of (job title) do you think they are a good fit for this position?
– What are the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses?
– Which unique skills did the candidate contribute to your organisation?
– Which areas do you think the candidate needs to improve on in order to be successful?

Company Fit

– Did the candidate have good relationships with their co-workers and managers?
– Were there any factors which impacted the candidate’s performance such as punctuality or missing deadlines?
– If you had the chance to re-hire the candidate, would you? If not, why?
– Is there anything I have not asked that you would like to share with me?

Make sure you highlight any red flags in the information – such as inconsistencies between the CV and the content provided by the reference. Small disparities may be able to be accounted for by the candidate as typos or incorrectly remembered information when it comes to specific dates. However, there should be no dissimilarities when it comes to skills, education and experience. Any serious misinformation should serve as a definite red flag before you consider taking the applicant any further in the hiring process.

For a hiring manager, not only does a reference check help to verify information provided in an application, but it can also provide invaluable information for managing that candidate in the future.  

If you want added peace of mind when it comes to hiring, then find out how TrueProfile.io can help you add a robust layer of candidate verification to your recruitment processes in our dedicated Business Partners area.