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Reference Checking: You are hired!

To Check or Not to Check?

According to the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) reference checking is one of the most important parts of the hiring process.

What is reference checking? It's the process of contacting people who worked with or had chance to witness an employees skills, knowledge and abilities and gaining corroboration of a person's background, education and experience.

Why is it so important? According to an Inc. magazine article 85% of job candidates lie on their resume. You want to be sure that your candidate has the skill set they say they have and when combined with good interviewing skills, checking references verify - or bring up red flags - the best fit for your job.

Are You Asking Good Questions?

According to Glass Door, it's important who you ask and what you ask. Asking good questions - questions that give you the information you need to qualify a candidate - should be prepared in advance. These are the questions recommended by Glass Door:

  • How long have you known the candidate?

  • Were you involved in the hiring process or did you directly hire the candidate?

  • Did the candidate report to you directly or dotted line? Please describe your relationship with the candidate.

  • Did the candidate consistently hit or miss goals/quotas?

  • Would you say the candidate made a substantial, average, or below average contribution to the organization? Please describe the reasons for your answer.

  • How well did the candidate perform under stressful conditions such as facing sales or project deadlines?

  • How well did the candidate deal with any organizational or management changes that took place or any customer sales or service issues?

  • Were there any areas where the candidate excelled? Any particular strengths? Please be specific.

  • Conversely, are there any areas that the candidate could use improvement? Any particular weaknesses? Please be specific.

What if you are asked?

What if someone calls you for a reference on a past employee or someone you worked with?First of all, etiquette says the person should ask before putting you down as a reference so it should not be a surprise. But, either way - surprise or not - should you talk?

According to this Harvard Business Review article you should give a good reference when you have one to give, and also tell the truth to the person asking for a reference if you can't be positive. Either way, tell the truth with specific examples. It's difficult because we all worry about saying the wrong thing, hurting someone's reputation or legal backlash. A good rule of thumb, is to get approval from the candidate to have a conversation with a potential employer. So, if they haven't used their job seeking manners and called you first, contact them before you talk.

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