The answer is a simple YES! Reference checks are worth your time; just follow these tips to make sure you are using this opportunity to your best advantage and to find the applicant that will be the best fit for your company.
Talk to an immediate supervisor
This seems like an obvious one, but it needs to be on the list! If a candidate is not able to give you a reference of a supervisor this could be cause for concern; it could be a sign that the candidate left previous jobs in unfavorable conditions. Speaking with the supervisor will shed a lot of light on the person’s working style as well as overall personality. You may be able to find out what management style worked best for the candidate as well as how he/she worked with others. It is also a good idea to find out what other strengths and weaknesses the supervisor remembers about the candidate, if he/she is willing to share them.
Ask open ended questions
Try to avoid questions that are “yes” and “no” answers only. Remember, you are trying to find out more about the candidate as a worker and his/her overall behavior. Examples would be… Tell me about the candidate’s management style? What is a strength this candidate showed to management and co-workers? Also, it is important to read beyond just the answers that are given…does the person’s energy while speaking about the candidate seem positive? Does he/she have plenty to say or is he/she struggling to answer the questions?
Find references not on the list
In today’s business world, where networking (especially social media) is prevalent, you might know people in common with the candidate. Check LinkedIn or other professional groups for someone that may have worked at the same company as the candidate. Even if that person is not on the reference list provided by the applicant, it would be beneficial to attempt to gather his/her input on the applicant. However, one important warning is to make sure this is not the only reference with whom you speak. For example, the two individuals may not have worked together closely enough for an accurate reference to be provided by the common third-party person.
Keep it short and sweet
The reference’s time is just as important as yours. Make sure to have a list of questions ready so that the conversation goes smoothly and quickly. Assure the individual that he/she is speaking to you confidentially so that he/she is more at ease throughout the conversation. Start with basic questions, if necessary, and then work up to the more complex questions.
The chosen few only please
Save this step to last…make sure you have narrowed down your applicants to just a few chosen people, if not the final person that will be receiving the conditional offer of employment. Do not spend time doing reference checks for each candidate in the mid-stages of the hiring process. By the end of the interviews and other candidate questioning, you may only have to do reference checks for a few absolute final people. And by then, you may have a good feel for which candidate will be the best fit for your company. This will just be the final piece to complete the hiring puzzle. Whether you decide to check on a small group of people or just the final candidate, make sure you are cognizant of the applicants’ wishes for the confidentiality of their job search. That is, make sure they are okay with you calling any current employer to check references. Not letting the cat out of the bag too early will help to further earn an applicant’s trust in your organization.
Remember, the hiring process is all about finding the best fit for the job. While using our applicant tracking software to gather applicant information and to narrow down your choices, uses these quick tips to make reference checks easy and worth your time. We can automate the process of recording reference check data, too. For more information about our products, please visit our resources section or contact us today.