Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Importance of the Reference Check

On almost all applications, reference checks are asked and provided as a means to check if a potential employee is suitable for the position or a good hire.

In a recent CareerBuilder survey of 2,494 hiring managers and human resource departments, nearly 30 percent of employers have discovered fake references provided on an application, with 69 percent of employers stating that they’ve gone with a different candidate after speaking to a reference. Additionally, 62 percent stated that the reference provided gave a bad reference.

If you're unsure how to tackle the reference check process, Kayla Burns, PHR, Employee Relations Specialist here at Orion International, answers some questions about conducting the perfect reference check:

As an employer, why is it important to ask and require reference checks?

A reference check is important because it enables the company to access the candidates' overall fit for the job. It can also determine if their skills, training, and experience are in line with the duties of the position begin filled.

What are usually the required references for a well-rounded reference check? (ie. professional, personal, etc.)

The best references usually include a current supervisor and at least one past supervisor. Co-workers with whom the candidate worked closely with on projects and teams and who can speak to the skill level and professionalism of a candidate are good, too. Personal references are acceptable if they are someone who knows the candidate well and can speak to their work ethic, such as a sports coach, teacher/professor, or somebody they reported to during volunteer opportunities. Personal references such as a friend or a family member should not be given to an employer.

What are some red flags when checking a reference for a potential employee?

A big red flag is if they state they have no previous job experience at all, especially if they are in 20s or 30s. This would show they are trying to hide something, like poor work history or poor work performance. Another red flag is if the dates the reference states they were employed do not match the dates listed on the resume.

What are some good questions to ask a reference?

It is important that all questions asked are related to the position. Questions which can be answered with just a simple "yes" or "no" are not good questions. Good questions may include:
  • How long, and in what capacity, did you know this individual?
  • How would you describe the individual's overall performance and quality of work?
  • How has this person grown in their skills and abilities over the years?
  • Would you re-hire this employee? Why? (Usually the best one to ask at the end)
"When conducting reference checks, it is best to only ask questions which are job-related," added Burns. "To avoid discrimination, there should be a standard set of questions that is asked for all candidates."

Does your company follow a standard procedure for checking a potential employee's references? Share your experience in the comments below!

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