Skipping Reference Checks: What You Don’t Know Can Cost You

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Checking references once you’ve found the candidate of your choice may seem like a mere formality, but it can save you from a costly hiring mistake. Think of it as wearing a life jacket when you go sailing or a seat belt while driving: The one time you need it proves to be a lifesaver.

A Critical Hiring Step

Reference checks are critically important, both to making a final hiring decision and to managing a new hire’s transition into your organization.

  • If you ask the right questions and listen carefully to the answers, you will gain invaluable information. You’re looking not only for details that may rule out a candidate, but also for points that may help you make trade-offs among top applicants. What you hear may also help ensure that the candidate you select will be well positioned for success within your company.
  • Reference checks may divulge information that causes you to eliminate someone as a candidate. For instance, they may have exaggerated or failed to tell the truth regarding their employment history or education. The reference may reveal more subtle red-flags, such as over-representing key skills or having a history of poor collaboration with co-workers.

Reference Check Best Practices

When conducting reference checks, establish trust with the person you’re speaking to, right up front. Trust is critical to getting answers that dig beneath the surface.

  • Start by introducing yourself and explaining the specific opportunity. References will be more forthcoming when the process feels like a conversation.
  • Consider the source. If you get negative feedback, weigh it against information from other references before making a hiring decision. You may also choose to revisit an issue with a candidate to get a balanced perspective on that feedback.
  • Be consistent. Ask the same questions in each reference check. Be sure to get complete references for all your finalist candidates.

Reference checking is one of the essential steps to thorough, consistent and successful hiring.  Leveraging their industry knowledge and network of contacts, the professional recruiters at O’Connell Group can help you formulate a framework of questions for getting valuable references. Contact us today to learn more.

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