Five Reference Checking Tips


Checking references is sometimes treated like an afterthought when you’re hiring, especially in the world of IT. After all, if you’ve already decided that a candidate can do the job, why does it matter what their references say?
Actually, it might matter a lot. What those references say may not only help you decide whether or not to go through with the hire, but also give you some insight as to how to set the candidate up for success, should they become part of your company.
So how to check references successfully? We have a few tips that will help you as you check references of potential employees, so you can feel more confident in your hiring decisions.

1. Check at least two references.

You don’t want to base your entire decision on one person’s opinion. Checking more than one reference should give you a clearer picture of what the candidate is like, and how he or she performs on the job. When possible, try to check references that the candidate has worked with recently, and stick with professional, rather than personal, references.

2. Perform reference checks over the phone.

While email would certainly be a convenient way to complete reference checks, remember that emails have a greater likelihood to be edited and carefully worded. In other words, you may not be getting the reference’s genuine reaction if you rely on email. You’ll also miss out on the nuance of their tone and overall attitude towards the questions (and the candidate).

3. Plan out smart questions.

Plan your questions carefully. Ask for input from other team members. What are the concerns you still have about the candidate? What are the most important things to know when hiring for this position? Plan carefully so you can glean information that is actually relevant and useful. If you need a little inspiration, start with your interview questions (that is, the ones that you have already asked the candidate). It could be interesting to compare the candidate’s answers with those of their former coworkers or managers.

4. Take your time (and take notes).

An important hire shouldn’t be made based on a five-minute phone call. Plan to spend a good amount of time to get a good picture of the candidate’s work history and behavior. Give the references plenty of time to think through their responses, and give yourself time to ask follow-up questions and take notes. Speaking of notes: don’t forget to write things down during the reference check. You don’t want to forget anything that might be important, and it could be very useful to compare notes from each reference.

5. Read between the lines.

There are a number of reasons why a reference might not be completely honest when answering questions about your candidate. Take this into consideration during your interviews. If a reference has a particularly hard time answering a certain question, make a note of that. Do any of your questions make them laugh? Why? Are they giving you both positive and negative feedback about the candidate? Does their tone reveal anything about how they feel about the candidate? Sometimes, what is said is less important than how it is said. When you read between the lines, you may be able to pick up even more information than you do from the questions themselves.
Reference checking should be treated as an important part of the interview process. This is your chance to get an honest opinion from someone who knows your candidate well. Take the process seriously, and see it as an opportunity to avoid a costly hiring mistake.
Another way to avoid those mistakes? Hire a staffing company, like EDI Staffing. We specialize in staffing IT positions, so you’re more likely to find a qualified candidate for your specific company and position. Don’t waste your time posting ads to inefficient sites or job boards. Contact us for more information on how EDI can help you grow your team more effectively.

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