6 Tips for Conducting Effective Reference Checks

6 Tips for Conducting Effective Reference Checks
Table of Contents

When it comes to hiring new employees, conducting reference checks is an essential step in the process. Reference checks provide valuable insights into a candidate’s work history, skills, and character. However, it’s important to conduct these checks effectively to ensure you get the most out of them. Here are 10 tips to help you conduct informative and thorough reference checks.

1) Prepare Questions in Advance

Before conducting reference checks, take the time to plan ahead and prepare your questions. Make sure you have a clear understanding of the job requirements and the skills and qualities you are looking for in a candidate. This will help you tailor your questions to the specific needs of the position. You might consider asking about any areas of concern or red flags that may have come up during the hiring process. Of course, always reassure the reference that their answers will be kept confidential.

2) Verify Identity and Relationship

Before conducting a reference check, it’s important to verify the identity of the reference and their relationship to the candidate. Ask for their full name, job title, and how they know the candidate. This will help ensure that you are speaking with someone who has direct knowledge of the candidate’s work and can provide valuable insights. It’s also a good idea to confirm the reference’s contact information, such as their phone number and email address, to ensure that you can reach them easily.

3) Ask Open-Ended Questions and Listen Actively

When conducting reference checks, it’s important to ask open-ended questions that allow the reference to provide detailed and specific information about the candidate. Avoid asking yes or no questions, as these will not provide much insight into the candidate’s abilities or work style. Instead, ask questions that require the reference to provide examples or describe specific situations. Examples include:

  • What was your working relationship and how long did you work together? 
  • How would you describe their work performance and style? 
  • How would you describe their verbal, written, and presentation skills?
  • Please comment on job knowledge (quality of work, skills, & experience)
  • How is the Candidate at building relationships/collaboration?  
  • How does the Candidate work under pressure? 
  • What are three words that best describe the Candidate? 
  • What would you consider their strengths to be? 
  • Are there any examples of a project Candidate worked on that stands out to you? 
  • Is there anything else you would like to add?

It’s also important to listen carefully to the responses and ask follow-up questions to clarify any information that is unclear or vague. This will help you get a more complete picture of the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses.

4) Ask For Specific Examples and Details

When conducting reference checks, it’s important to ask for specific examples and details about the candidate’s work performance. This will help you get a better understanding of their skills, abilities, and work style. For example, instead of asking if the candidate is a good team player, ask the reference to describe a specific situation where the candidate worked well with others to achieve a common goal. This will provide you with more detailed and useful information that you can use to make an informed hiring decision.

5) Look For Patterns and Consistency

When conducting reference checks, it’s important to look for patterns and consistency in the feedback you receive from multiple references. If multiple references mention the same strengths or weaknesses, it’s likely that these are accurate reflections of the candidate’s work performance. On the other hand, if you receive conflicting feedback from different references, it’s important to dig deeper and ask follow-up questions to get a better understanding of the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses. By looking for patterns and consistency in the feedback, you can make a more informed hiring decision.

6) Close the Loop With Your Candidate as Soon as Possible

Remember, if a candidate isn’t the best fit for one position, you might want them to consider applying for new openings in the future. However, without the right feedback mechanisms in place, sharing feedback can easily slip through the cracks, potentially leaving you–and candidates–in the dark. Explore our Guide To Sharing Post-Interview Feedback With Candidates for a short list of post-interview feedback best practices that can easily be integrated into your current hiring process!

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