The Importance of Reference Checks

Reference checks are more than just confirming work history; they provide insight into a candidate’s real abilities.

Candidates often present their best selves in interviews, making it hard to know their true strengths and weaknesses. References who worked with the candidate before can offer valuable insights, especially about soft skills like teamwork and leadership.

Let's take a look at what we can do to prepare for reference checks.

Before Talking to a Reference

1. Check with the Candidate’s Current Employer:

Ensure the candidate is aware of what their current boss will say.

2. Choose the Right Contact Method:

For example, conduct reference checks by phone for spontaneity and to be able to hear the reference’s nuanced responses.

3. Decide Who to Speak To:

Let the hiring manager choose based on the questions they want to ask.

4. Remember not to Treat Criticism as a Red Flag: 

View constructive criticism from a reference as an opportunity to understand the candidate better.

3 Key Questions to Ask References

1. Describe Weaknesses/Strengths:

Use the reference’s responses to evaluate the candidate’s capabilities and compare answers with the interview.

2. Teamwork Assessment:

Get insights from colleagues or team members about how well the candidate works in a team.

3. Handling Challenges and Failures:

Utilize the reference’s answers to better understand how the candidate deals with challenges by asking specific questions related to the potential job.

In conclusion, reference checks are not just a formality; they help evaluate a candidate’s real skills, experience, and characteristics. Knowing how to approach them and asking the right questions makes the process more valuable.

Here’s some additional resources on reference checks!

Indeed is a job seeker’s website with job postings from across the world. In their article, they speak on the importance of knowing when to call references, what to ask, who to call, and more.

LinkedIn is a social media platform that is business and employment-focused. One of their users provides an article outlining the pros and cons of contacting references, complete with tips and tricks.

The Provincial Government of BC has a nicely organized and detailed document available for download that includes key points, planning and preparation tips, how to conduct a reference check interview, and how to evaluate it. There’s even a handy checklist at the end for hiring managers to use!

GoodHire is a background check agency that aims to support employers and employees alike. Their article offers a list of their top 10 questions to ask a candidate’s references.