Reference checks help you learn more about your applicants. How do they behave professionally? How do they handle problems? What are the negative sides to working with the applicants? What makes your applicant tick? Is he/she a team player?
It is not enough for the applicant to narrate an incident that illustrates how they were team players. The referees will tell you the true story. The more you learn about your prospective hire, the easier it is to get the most from them when you hire them.
But with up to 29% of people faking their references, are reference checks worth it? Reference checks are very important and valuable, especially when hiring for high-level positions. A Career Builder survey found that 43% of employers made a bad hire for failing to conduct proper background checks. The only way to know if a reference is genuine is through conducting the reference check in the first place. If you go through HR to get to the reference, then you will have the correct contact. And if your applicant lied about the referee, that’s a sure red flag. This is one way to optimize your reference check. Keep reading to learn more.
How To Optimize Your Reference Checks
Get A Long List Of References
If you are hiring for a high-level position, get seven or more references. For a mid-level position, get four references or more. Get as many contacts as will help you connect the dots about this new hire.
Analyze The Reference List
You mostly want to contact referees that are related to the position and skills you are looking for. As you analyze the list, look how far back the applicant has gone with the references. Also, is the reference list a good mix? Maybe a mentor, colleague, supervisor, and support staff? A diverse mix is a good sign.
Double-check their online information with that provided by the applicant. Look at their LinkedIn profile, and while at it, gather reliable backdoor references. Backdoor references are the referees you discover through your research.
Create Your Standard List Of Direct Open-Ended Or Closed-Ended Questions
The reference check is the time to gather the information you would not get directly from the applicant. You don’t want to waste the opportunity by digressing or asking irrelevant questions. Prepare your set of questions that you will ask each referee. You can ask the interviewers’ input when creating your questions for the referees.
Make sure your questions are straight to the point, very direct, and related to the job responsibility. Don’t hold back from “hard” questions. Ask how the applicant behaves, how he/she has changed over time and how the referees expect her/him to grow in the next couple of years.
When hiring, you may be looking for any signs that approve your applicant. You often end up overlooking mistakes and obvious red flags. If you are conducting your first reference check, make sure to get help from a trusted advisor. It is best to have a second person or a professional background checking provider conduct the reference check.
Analyze The Answers Given By Referees
Whether you do your reference check by phone, email, or in-person, look for consistency in the replies. If all the referees say the same (or almost similar) things, you can rely on that information.
Other Things To Consider In Reference Checks
- How quickly do the referees get back to you? If they get back first enough, your applicant might have informed them about your call, which indicates that he/she is organized.
- Find out your applicant’s emotional and social skills and avoid figuring out the reference’s tone of voice. Stick to the stated facts.
- Ask for clear examples that back up your applicant’s claims on the resume.
- Does the referee diverge from professional to personal information? That might be a fake referee, probably a friend or relative.
- Does the referee only give vague answers? That’s a clear red flag.
- Ask the referee for another referee, probably a colleague. Such is a secondary referee and might prove more reliable. Alternatively, get the referee’s contact from HR.
- Ask for negative feedback too. Positive feedback is overrated. Get to know the dark side of your applicant through their referees.
It is best practice to alert your applicant that you will talk to the references. As you do your reference check, remember not to lean so heavily on the information provided by referees. Reference checks are only an additional source of information after you prove that your candidate is skilled for the position.