Reference Checking 101: Your Guide to Basic Strategy
Even though reference checks are inexpensive and fairly easy to obtain, many business owners overlook this valuable tool for screening applicants. Reference checking can fill in the blanks a resume may have, plus give behind-the-scene insight into a candidate’s history and background. Why do employers sidestep the all-important background check For one thing, they may worry that asking questions of past employers is illegal. This is not true, as long as the information they provide is factual. Obtaining feedback about past work performance is not only legal, it is a crucial part of interviewing, as long as it’s done properly. To check references in a smart and beneficial way, follow these guidelines.
Know What Past Managers Are Likely To Provide
Many employers will simply provide basic information in response to your reference checking, such as dates employed, position held, and salary. If the applicant you’re interviewing left the company a couple years ago, the supervisor may just forward your call to a human-resources staff person who will only provide you with the barest, most routine information. A reason that former employers play it safe and just give blueprint details is that they’ve been instructed to do so as a matter of policy. When this occurs, you’ll have to dig a bit deeper to obtain the desired information.
Obtain More Personal Feedback
It’s not all that helpful to merely get the surface data on a person you’re interested in hiring while reference checking. You want to know what he or she truly was like to work with. With a bit more sleuthing, there are ways to obtain the answers to your questions, such as:
-Turn to Your Network: Instead of going through human resources or an applicant’s past supervisor, contact someone you know within the same company. This insider should be able to come up with more specific details about the individual’s personality, work ethic, and reason for leaving. If you don’t know others within your industry, it’s time to start developing a network of contacts for the future.
-Let the Candidate Make the Contact: If a job applicant had a good relationship with his or her past employer, he or she could contact his or her supervisor and ask that the individual speak with you. When managers have a good experience with their team members, they are often happy to step out of the box to offer feedback that will help their former worker on his or her career path. Applicants that don’t want to contact anyone at their former company may have something to hide. It can be a red flag or at least a conversation starter.
When you have the candidate’s former supervisor on the phone, it’s important to connect as fellow employers to establish a sense of camaraderie. Instead of just introducing yourself, share some details about your company, your mission statement, and who you are looking for in a new-hire. If you let this individual know who you are and what your business stands for, he or she will be more likely to share information about his or her organization and past employee. Developing rapport can be a powerful tool in reference checking.
Ask the Right Questions
Once you’ve established accord with the applicant’s former boss, it’s important to ask the right questions. Instead of using scripted language, word your queries so that a manager can give you specifics. You might ask questions such as, ïCould you give me some examples of projects that the applicant completed successfully while on your teamï You can also gain valuable insight when you ask, ïIf you rank five of your employees, where would this candidate standï When the supervisor gives you his or her answer, follow it up with, ïCan you give me an example of why this is soï You might also share details about the position you’re interviewing for and ask the former manager if he or she thinks your applicant would be a good fit.
Reference checking may be intimidating to some employers, but with the right strategies, it shouldn’t be. Hiring an individual without thoroughly checking into his or her background is a very risky practice. Don’t let your eagerness to fill a job vacancy push you to sidestep one of the most valuable tools in your hiring toolkit. A close review of the resume, a comprehensive interview, and a thorough screening of references will allow you to hire the best person for your team. For more tips and tools to hire topnotch employees for your company, check out the resources on Resume Bucket.