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Q&A: Do you recommend doing reference checks?

Question:

Do you recommend doing reference checks?

Answer: Rebecca, one of our HR Pros says…

Thank you for your question. I am definitely an advocate for reference checks. Speaking to references is a great way to get more information about applicants and to verify the information they’ve provided to you. As a best practice, I recommend getting an applicant’s formal written consent to check their references, but if they’ve provided you with a reference list with names and contact methods for this specific purpose, additional authorization is likely not needed.

When speaking with references, open-ended questions are often the most helpful—if they are willing and able to answer them. I like to ask whether the applicant would be a good fit for the role and what skills the applicant has that would make them well-suited to it. I also usually ask about any times the applicant needed to be coached and how they responded to feedback.

If a reference doesn’t seem willing or able to answer open-ended questions, you can ask them to confirm employment information that the candidate has already provided (e.g., dates of employment, a reason for leaving). In the process, the reference may open up about the applicant’s strengths and weaknesses related to their previous position or about other job-related details. If they don’t, then I recommend asking whether they’d recommend the applicant for your position. Even a simple yes or no answer will speak volumes.

I hope this information is helpful. Please let me know how I may be of further assistance.

 

Rebecca has a diverse background in Human Resources and Training Management from the temporary staffing and insurance industries. She has served in a variety of HR management positions and enjoys translating complex regulatory language into “real world” scenarios, allowing her clients to quickly utilize the content in their daily activities.

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