Tips on Reference Checks
Other Background Checks to Consider
- Criminal background checks
- Drug and alcohol tests
- Education and transcript verification
- Credit checks (must notify applicant that you're doing so)
Once you've narrowed the field to your two or three final candidates, it's time to check their references. Here are some items to keep in mind:
- Encourage applicants to identify relevant references; be sure they include supervisors and colleagues, not just personal friends.
- Get a signed release from candidates that grants permission for you to contact references.
- If you're signed up for LinkedIn, you can find references on the site through your professional network and connections.
- Verify employment and compensation.
- Focus reference questions on the critical job requirements you've identified; don't just ask a reference to "tell you about someone."
- Have references give specific examples to support their comments on a candidate.
- Ask references to rate candidates on the critical job requirements.
- Listen for "safe" words than can have double meanings. For example, an "independent" worker can be one that is self-reliant or one that doesn't cooperate with peers.
- Ask the reference if he or she would rehire the candidate.
- If answers are vague, follow up with more specific questions, for example, "Is there a situation that you can describe in which the candidate showed a high level of persistence in chasing a deal or saving a sale?"
Portions adapted from "Providing Structure to Interviews and Reference Checks," Workforce, Paul Taylor, May 1999
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