what are reference checks?
A reference check is the evaluation of an applicant’s past job performance. It involves an employer asking questions about a potential candidate’s past work performance to verify the accuracy of the information they’ve provided.
why do organisations conduct reference checks?
Recently, StaffCircle surveyed 1,500 employees across the UK to learn how far they have gone—or would go—to get a job. The survey had some pretty interesting findings. Of the respondents:
- 51% admitted to lying about their experiences, 38% about their skills, and 26% about their salaries
- 93% admitted their employers never caught them
- 63% confessed they would lie again
Of the respondents, 68% termed their interview process ‘very detailed’—yet employers still couldn’t catch these lies.
how reference checks can help.
The above statistics clearly demonstrate why organisations must enhance their hiring procedures. Here’s how reference checks can highlight inconsistencies and skill gaps:
verifying information accuracy
Reference checks are usually conducted as one of the final steps of the selection process, so the candidates have provided lots of information. According to the StaffCircle survey, there’s a good chance some of them have distorted the information to increase their chances of being hired.
By conducting reference checks, you can verify the information given by an applicant by speaking with others who have worked with them. This also helps the employer uncover background information the applicant missed or omitted from their resume or interviews.
predicting candidate performance
Under the behavioural consistency principle, an individual will likely adhere to the same principles throughout life. So, reference checks, which evaluate past performance, are excellent indicators of future job performance.
Relevant referees and external observers are familiar with the candidate’s experience, skills, work ethic, etc., and have seen the candidate perform. The information you collect from them can put you in a better position to accurately estimate how the candidate will perform in relation to your organisation’s specific challenges and circumstances.
They may also give a different perspective on the candidate’s limitations and strengths, so you can support and provide the right development opportunities if you hire them.
tips on how to run effective reference checks.
Checking references often means the difference between hiring the right or wrong person. Done well, it can save rehiring time and money, prevent productivity losses, and avoid the costs associated with a poor role or organisational fit.
The tips below can help you improve your organisation’s reference checks, which will help you enhance hire quality by ensuring candidates haven’t provided any misleading information and are the best fit for the role and your organisation.
Speak to everyone involved in the interviewing and hiring process. Ask what concerns they have about an applicant and what else they would like to know about them. Formulating questions based on their input improves the effectiveness of the reference check by uncovering all the information various stakeholders need.
establish your list of questions
Instead of going at it haphazardly, create a list of questions to ask referees tailored to the role, the candidate, and the previous roles the candidate has held.
describe the job
Be very specific about the role you want to fill and its duties and challenges so that the referee can provide relevant information.
ask open-ended, specific questions
Make sure you ask questions that are open-ended and specific so you don’t leave room for vague answers. Posing a question like, “What can you tell me about XYZ?” will bring up a broad range of responses, making it unlikely that a referee’s answers will be relevant to the job. Instead, ask a question like, “XYZ helped implement a new ATS system at your organisation. Can you tell me more about their role in that?”
check soft skills
Ask referees about candidates’ soft and social skills to learn about their EQ. Ask about their self-regulation, motivation, empathy, flexibility, etc. It will help you understand how they will fit into your organisation and for which skills you need to provide development opportunities.
A few more tips:
- Keep the questions job related and legal. An HR professional can help you confirm you are using appropriate questions.
- Avoid leading the referee through statements and questions that push them to affirm your beliefs.
improve hire quality with hireful.
Aside from reference checking, you can improve your hire quality through hiring and recruitment tools and technologies like hireful. Our applicant tracking system (ATS) can help you streamline your recruitment process and deliver a better candidate experience.
The technology at hireful is cost-effective, flexible, and supported by a knowledgeable team who can help you get the most out of it. Schedule a 15-minute intro call to see if hireful is a good fit for you.