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The Reference Check 2.0: How to Get the Best Results from Your Efforts

Jun 11 , 2019

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Reference checks can often be nothing more than a formality to make sure a candidate hasn't lied about their background or experience. If  done right, however, they can provide confirmation that you have chosen the right candidate and give you valuable insight into a candidate's background. 

Setting Yourself Up for Success

To get the most from your reference checks, it is essential to know what information you need to feel comfortable moving forward. Some foundational steps are making sure you have the candidate's most recent supervisor as a reference and that the other references aren't just family and friends who will say anything to get them hired. 

You should also evaluate what kind of information you can get from references and make your list of questions ahead of time so you're not caught off guard. You may want to verify facts related to the job, fill in gaps left during interviews, or confirm basic information about the candidate to be sure they are truly qualified for the job. 

Following Rules and Protocols

Depending on the rules in a given state or industry, references may not be able to do much more than confirm that the candidate worked for them and their start and end dates. You may be referred to the HR department or to another person who had direct experience with the candidate so that you can get more information. Sometimes, it can be difficult to get anything but the most basic information about a candidate with a reference check. 

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Types of Questions to Ask

When you can get more information, you should keep your questions open-ended. Answers to open-ended questions often reveal more information about a candidate than more structured questions. One of the best questions to ask is, "What advice can you give me about how to manage this individual?" In answering this question, supervisors will reveal much more about the candidate's strengths and weaknesses as well as their job performance than with a question like "what is (candidate) like?"

Other questions could be about candidates' accomplishments and how they have met challenges in the past. Pay close attention to how references' answers match up to those given by the candidate. Of course, there will be some style or perception differences, but there should not be any factual discrepancies between the two. 

Another good area of focus is on whether the reference is confident that the candidate will do the job and is a good fit, not necessarily on whether the candidate is able to do the job. Many candidates who have the right skills for a particular job lack the work ethic to be a good candidate or have other deficiencies that the right reference check questions could reveal. 

It is helpful to know as a new employee starts a job with your company what has motivated them in the past or kept them engaged in a task or project. Knowing these details can help you meet these needs and make for a more productive hire.

Using reference checks to find out helpful information about an employee's preferences and habits can prevent problems after hiring and maximize the effectiveness of the hire. GDH offers help with all aspects of the recruiting and hiring process, including reference checks. In fact, outsourcing reference checks can make them fairer by standardizing the process and can save your team time that can be spent on other recruiting tasks. Contact us for more information about all the ways GDH can help your company hire better.