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Reference Checks – How ToEnsure They Are Effective

Reference Checks – How ToEnsure They Are Effective

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For many companies, reference checks are conducted as a mere formality to re-affirm an already-made hiring decision. After all, it’s easy to predict what the references are going to say about the candidate since they are some of their biggest supporters, right? Well, not always.

When conducted properly, reference checks can provide you with invaluable information about the candidate that can be useful during and after the hire. Blue Collar People suggests 4 things you can do to ensure that your reference checks are as useful and insightful as possible:

  1. Ensure there is diversity in the references.To get a better understanding of the kind of contribution a candidate will make in your company, you will need to talk to a variety of people who have worked with the candidate before –supervisors, junior staff and colleagues. Talking with different people will help you get more insightful information e.g. you can find out whether a candidate possesses good management skills by talking to their direct report, while a chat with a colleague can help you find out whether the candidate is a team player.

For some roles, you might also need to look for insight from people outside the organisation such as funders, partners, andstakeholders to find out how the candidate is perceived externally.

To get a comprehensive overview of the candidate, ask them to provide about 5 references: 1-2 colleagues, 1-2 supervisors, and 1-2 direct reports.

  1. Tactfully solicit critical feedback. Anyone who’s agreed to serve as a reference knows that they will be askedsome questions that would elicit some unflattering information about the candidatethey vouch for. You’ll, therefore, need to frame your questions tactfully and ask them in a couple of different ways to get the information you need from the reference. Take out the sting from questions that might portray the candidate negatively by reassuring the reference that everyone has a few things that they’re not perfect at. If a reference glosses over a certain weakness, make sure to ask follow up questions to find out more about it. 
  1. Use customised questions. It’s easier to just read from a generic template when talking to references, but this will not help you acquire any useful information. To get what you want, customise your questions so that they dig deep with each reference. For example, you can ask a supervisor to tell you how the candidate took critical feedback, while on the other hand, you can ask their direct report to tell you how they provided critical feedback.

If you find a candidate to be too timid for the role, you can ask the references to give you examples of when the candidate had to get out of their comfort zone to deal with a difficult situation. Ensure that each question you ask a reference is specifically targeted at them to ensure you get the most insightful answers.

  1. Think beyond the hire.When done well, a reference check will provide you with useful information that will help you establish and maintain a robust working relationship with the newly hired worker. Ask their supervisors to tell you what they think motivates or demotivates the candidate. Get information on how to provide negative feedback to the candidate from their colleagues. Also, ask the references about the kind of environment the would-be employee thrives in. This kind of information will help make the onboarding process easier as well as give you an idea of how to manage the new hire going forward.

Everything you need to know about a candidate has already been discovered by the candidate’s references, all you have to do is figure out how to get the information out of them.

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