As a recruiter/ HR leader/ employer it is your duty to find high quality candidates to fill job positions whether it’s for your company or another. During this process you are looking to validate several aspects of a candidate. This is when you will need to perform reference checks.
Defined by the Government of Canada, a reference check “is a systematic evaluation of an applicant’s past job performance, based on conversations with people who have worked with them. Like an employment interview, reference checking is most effective when it is well-structured and integrated thoughtfully into the hiring process.”
With the ever so changing hiring landscape, reference checking is more important than ever. This recruiting tool is used to help hiring managers make better hiring decisions while gaining meaningful insight into the candidate before deciding if they are going to join your team. In contrast, a negative reference response is extremely beneficial, as it can help an employer avoid any potential bad hires.
When conducting reference checks you should be looking for the right “fit” and for any alarming employment gaps. With a combination of a resume, interview (and interview notes) and a reference check, you should have a clear overall understanding and impression of the candidate.
Reference checks provide a way for you to verify resumes, cover letters and interviews while giving you the opportunity to learn more about a candidate through the eyes of another professional.
When done correctly, a reference check can validate the candidate while providing constructive and/or factual information to identify strengths, weaknesses and behavioural characteristics. This is why it is important to gather at least two business and one character reference. You want to know that the candidate is not only reliable in a professional sense, but that they also have the right attitude and personality for your team.
While a resume will indicate career achievements and qualifications and an interview will allow you to grasp the personability of the candidate, a reference check confirms the truth about their past performance which can predict their future performance.
A few things to remember before conducting a reference check:
- Confidential: Any information received from references is completely confidential and should not be discussed with any colleagues or candidates (unless advised otherwise).
- Communication with Candidate: A successful reference checking process ensures that you are communicating with your candidate. Make sure that they are informed before the reference check is sent out, so that they are able to contact the referee ahead of time.
- Caution: It is important that you only ask questions related to the candidate/job position. Do not ask personal questions such as age, disabilities or national origin.
That being said, it is important to remember that the actual questions asked in a reference check should be precise, as they will provide you with all the candidate insight.
Start with questions pertaining to the candidate/referee relationship:
- Please provide the dates in which you worked with the candidate?
- What is your relationship to the candidate?
- Did the candidate have good relationships with managers and peers?
It is then important to highlight the dates of employment, duties and job titles:
- What was the nature of the candidates role at your company?
- What was the candidate’s job title?
- How long was the candidate employed at your company?
In efforts to learn more about your candidate, it will be helpful to asses previous performance:
- What are the candidates’ top 3 work-related strengths?
- What are the candidates’ top 3 work-related weaknesses?
- How well did the candidate accept feedback?
To further this, ask some behavioural questions to get an assessment of their soft skills:
- How did the candidate make decisions and solve problems?
- How did the candidate demonstrate dependability, trustworthiness and integrity?
- Would you consider this candidate to be proficient with technology?
Lastetly, it is crucial to ask exit questions and provide space for any additional comments:
- Why did the candidate leave the company?
- Would you rehire this candidate?
- Do you have any additional comments you would like to add?
There may be other questions you prefer to ask, which relate specifically to the role you are hiring for. You may need to ask questions pertaining to leadership skills, career development, and/or motivation and commitment. Regardless, be sure to ask all relevant questions!
Additionally, it can be extremely valuable to use assessment tools before offering the candidate a position. This could be BarOn Emotional intelligence, an EQ-i test and/or personality tests.
While these reference check questions can provide you with a good starting point as you look to gain candidate insight. You should be asking additional questions to get a full understanding of who they are, what they can do and how they can do it.
As one of the most important steps in the hiring process, reference checking can be extremely time consuming, thus is it worth looking into implementing an automated reference checking solution so that you can streamline the process while protecting the information of candidates and references with a secure and compliant software like VITAY!