How to Optimize Your Reference Checks for Best Results

Finding the right employees for your company or organization can be tough— it’s hard to verify critical information about individual skills from a short interview. As a business owner or manager, it’s essential to ensure you know who you’re hiring. Verifying key information is crucial if you want to avoid costly mistakes during the recruitment process.

References allow you to verify critical information and ask relevant questions about your prospective employee’s past. It’s one of the only ways to seek a professional opinion on someone’s performance before you hire them.

Let’s take a more in-depth look at various ways you can optimize reference checking to avoid potential issues.

How to Check References

You should always ask for references from a prospective employee— most reputable professionals should be able to provide you with multiple credible references. It’s important to make sure that the references you contact can be verified. You should also have clear information about their professional capacity and what role they played in your prospective employee’s career/life.

Start by researching the references that you have been provided. Make sure that their contact details match the details that the applicant has provided to you. You should also verify that the reference is truly employed by the company that is provided to you during the application process.

If you want to ensure that you’re speaking to the right person, you may even want to contact the company directly and ask to speak with the person with which you’re aiming to get in contact. While this may seem over-the-top, it can save a lot of headaches if someone is deceitful.

If you’re planning on checking references yourself, you should make sure to create a formula that standardizes the entire process. Having a set list of questions and expected answers can help you improve the timeline and create consistency throughout the recruitment process.

Reference Check Questions & Answers

In this section of our post, we’ll take a look at some specific questions you can ask when you’re checking references. We’ll also explore the types of answers and responses you should be looking for when you ask these questions. For this section, we’ll assume that Amy is the name of the prospective employee you’re inquiring about.

In What Capacity Did You Work with Amy?

You should start by asking a straightforward question about the working relationship between the applicant and their reference. This transparency will allow you to establish the type of experiences the reference and applicant have had together. Was the reference a direct manager to the applicant? Did they have a lot of exposure to the applicant’s work?

How Did You Enjoy Working with Amy?

This is another simple, ‘must-ask’ question that allows you to explore the reference’s sentiments towards your applicant. You should always be looking for a positive response to this question— it’s crucial to get an overall feel for how the applicant will adjust to your business.

Does Amy Have Any Particular Strengths?

Next, it’s time to address the types of strengths you can expect from the applicant. By asking the reference to discuss strengths, you’re allowing them to express positive traits associated with the applicant. You should ask the reference to expand on each strength.

It’s also a good idea to ask for specific examples of these strengths that were put into practice. If you’re able to find concrete evidence of the applicant’s strengths and how they’ve been applied, you’ll be able to paint a better picture of their skillset; this is one of the most critical questions to ask.

Does Amy Have Any Particular Weaknesses?

Now that you’ve established a dialogue with the reference, you can ask about particular weaknesses. In some cases, you may not get a massive response from the reference— as they most likely have a favorable opinion of the applicant. Still, this can be a revealing question that can tell you a lot about your applicant’s traits.

Would You Welcome Amy Back to Your Company?

Instead of asking if you believe that Amy should be hired at your company, you should phrase the question to reflect on the reference’s company. By asking them if they would rehire the applicant, you’re allowing them to consider the applicant’s strengths and weaknesses and make an overall assessment.

You Can Also Ask About Technical Abilities

If you are hiring for a job that requires explicit technical knowledge or abilities, you may want to ask the reference to expand on the applicant’s technical know-how. Learning of the specific technical attributes of our applicant can help you verify if the applicant has the skills they’ll need to be successful in your company. This is particularly important for specific lines of work.

Should You Use a Reference Check Service?

Business owners and managers have a lot on their plates— checking references may not be at the forefront of your priorities. In some cases, organizations have started to outsource various parts of the recruitment process to expert firms that specialize in staffing and reference checking. So, should you outsource your reference checking to an external company?

The answer to this will depend on a variety of different factors, including your budget, internal resources, and your ability to successfully check references on your own. Using an expert company to verify references does have its advantages; many of these firms understand how to ensure references are who they say they are.

Also, if you’re using a recruiting or staffing service to find your new employee, they may offer this benefit as part of their service. Many modern recruitment companies will confirm references and verify the information before they put them into contact with prospective employees. You should always make sure to confirm if a staffing agency provides this service within their recruitment process.

It may also be a good idea to ask specific questions to the agency about their reference checking process. You need to make sure that they’re using the same thorough approach that you would utilize if you carried out the process internally.

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