Human Resources

Check those references - some tips

Past employment experience is a pretty good indicator of how your new employee will perform in your company. Be sure to phone those references and get the information you are looking for. Below are 17 tips to a successful reference check.

  1. Contact the reference by phone or in person. Writing to a reference contact is usually not effective and typically will yield little information or response.
  2. Don’t leave a call-back number if the person you are trying to reach is unavailable. You may receive the return call when you are unable to discuss the applicant.
  3. Plan and ask the same questions of each reference source.
  4. Identify yourself immediately, explain your position with your organization, and tell the person why you are calling about the applicant.
  5. Establish rapport. Ask the contact if this is a convenient time for you to speak with them or request to reschedule.
  6. Briefly describe the vacancy.
  7. Decide whether this individual can evaluate the candidate’s capabilities adequately to serve as a reference. Did he or she supervise or work with the candidate? For how long? When?
  8. Start with general basic questions and transition into more specific, performance-based questions.
  9. Before asking questions describe the job and the competencies you are seeking. This will give the reference a chance to structure his thinking.
  10. Develop behavioural questions based on job competencies that are included in the job description. Example: A competency for the job is providing quality customer service. You could ask what level of customer service the candidate has provided to difficult customers in the past.
  11. Ask the reference if they think the candidate will perform these behaviours successfully and seek specific examples of past performance.
  12. Let the person talk freely for as long as he or she wishes without interruption. Often, a question from you at the wrong time will shut off further information.
  13. Follow up and probe when you feel the contact is reluctant to discuss certain factors.
  14. If the person is a “reluctant” reference, a technique that frequently works is to summarize the conversation by making either of the following two statements:
  15. “I take it that you don’t recommend the applicant very highly for the position”
  16. “I take it that you recommend the applicant very highly for the position.” Sometimes, this brings the responses you need.
  17. Ask if you can call back if you have additional questions.
  18. Always end the call by asking the person, “Would you re-employ the applicant?” Often, this question brings forth information that you were unable to get with other questions.
  19. Thank the reference for their time and cooperation.