We have all heard the phrase, “past performance predicts future performance” and I feel the easiest way to gauge future performance is from relying heavily on reference feedback. Whether you are a recruiter, HR professional, hiring manager or simply conducting interviews for your organization, checking references on potential employees is a must. Below are some tips, pulled greatly from past experience, on how to get the most out of checking references:
- If a candidate cannot provide a readily available list of references, this may be a red flag. Most understandably, candidates that are currently working are not going to list their current employer and shouldn’t be expected to. However, if someone is actively job seeking and interviewing, they should have a prepared list of contacts to provide you to ensure someone can vouch for their work ethic throughout the pre-hire process.
- A thorough reference list will include a great amount of diversity in the contacts listed. For example, being able to provide more than one contact from past jobs, contacts from all past jobs, and different levels of employees they worked with in those jobs, including both former co-workers and supervisors, is hugely helpful. It is also important that the candidate has made these contacts aware they are listed as a reference on their behalf. Nothing is worse than catching someone completely unaware of the reason for your call!
- Keep it professional–nothing personal and stick with facts.
- Remember to start by verifying the information provided by the candidate and then move into questions related to their specific performance in the role and with the company (some examples below). Additionally, when interviewing a candidate for a specific role, be sure to dig a little deeper into how their past performance will relate to what they may eventually do within your organization.
o Are the company names, dates of employment, and titles correct?
o How was their overall performance in the specific role? (Does title listed and job duties provided mirror feedback coming from the reference?)
o How did they treat both fellow employees and external customers?
o Were they prompt and reliable with work product and in regards to meeting deadlines?
o Did they adhere to office culture and standards: attendance, dress code, etc.?
o Are there any concerns? (Concerns are not always negative and may be helpful in determining how to train and ensure immediate success in the new role.)
o Are they eligible for rehire? (Or sometimes can be phrased as, “would you hire or work with them again?” depending on the relationship of the candidate to the contact).
- If you do uncover negative feedback in a reference, it may not be a “deal breaker,” but not worth ignoring. In this case, ask the candidate for more reference contacts as it is worth researching further to see if the feedback has validity and is consistently received.
Candidates that have done the necessary due diligence in providing prompt, thorough, and detailed reference information will undoubtedly be heavily considered for any job!
Written by: Rebecca Faulk