Posted by annmachado

Once you’ve got your final few candidates narrowed down, you have one more significant step to take: checking references. Some may believe that a thorough resume once-over and in-person interview will give you the majority of the information you need and that they need to only do a cursory reference check or consider it a formality, but this particular step can give you insights you wouldn’t otherwise have. Here are some reasons why you should take it seriously and how to do it effectively:


  • References can verify and expand on information. Former bosses and supervisors can give you more specific, “hard” information on what duties a candidate had, skills she acquired and used, projects she worked on, and data in terms of numbers: sales volume, profit levels, etc. And if a candidate embellished anything, a reference can let you know that as well.
  • References can attest to the candidate’s performance. Aside from the hard data, you do want qualitative information to know if this candidate helps get the numbers up but is unpleasant or difficult to work with. Those who know the candidate can attest to his approach to work and criticism; his relationships with co-workers, superiors, and clients; and his style of work. You do want someone who will fit in well with your company culture — a reference can help you figure that out.
  • References can help you read between the lines. Whether it’s hard or soft data you want, listen carefully to everything the reference says — which is why it helps to get the person on the phone and not just email. Take note of word choices the reference uses and long hesitations in response to questions, and don’t hesitate on your end to question either of them.


Reference checks can also help you determine among your final candidates — for example, you may find that the experience of one person outweighs another, but that person would never fit into your company’s culture effectively and probably wouldn’t move up or improve. In fact a study from 2010 discovered that reference checks rule out about 20 percent of candidates. When you ask your questions, make them as open-ended as possible, asking such things as


  • What are the candidate’s strengths?
  • How did the candidate contribute to the success of your business?
  • What are two or three areas in which the candidate might improve?
  • Given the opportunity, would you hire this person again? Why/why not?


A thorough reference check should be part of every interview process. Consider it this way: One solid way to decide on your next employee is to speak with those who worked with her previously and see if she will fit successfully with your organization. After all, that’s what the process is all about. For more hiring tips, read our related posts or contact our expert recruiting team at Creative Staffing today!


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