How to Do a Better Reference Check

Reference checks are an essential step in your hiring process. As someone who has conducted a large number of reference checks, I know the process is time consuming, and often not very informative.

Many times references tell the employer what they want to hear, or they don’t provide meaningful information. It’s human nature to want to “help” a former employee, especially if they left on good terms. Or the reference is afraid to say anything negative for fear of repercussions.

If your reference checking process is not getting what you need from the people who truly know exactly how an individual works, how can you get it?

The Better Reference Check
Of course, pre employment tests can give you great insight into how a candidate will perform, and you should be using them in the hiring process, but reference checks are a way to get great information from someone who knows the applicant. This is why I’m a big proponent of a newer trend I have been seeing—automated reference checks.

Automated reference checks take dramatically less time and provide you with better information.

How it Works
Typically, the job applicant provides the names of potential references, and the system automatically sends each of them an email with instructions on how to complete the questionnaire or survey.

The questions will vary depending on what provider you choose, but this takes almost all of the legwork out of it for you. No phone calls! This process is also easier on the reference by providing an additional benefit: They can complete the survey or questionnaire at their convenience.

Better Information
The information is better because reference providers are answering based on a specific set of job-based competencies. This goes beyond verifying employment dates or having a rambling conversation, and actually uncovers valuable information on how that individual performed in the past – and potentially how they will perform once they are your employee. 

Automated reference checks are more focused and job-related, and the results are easier to compare than short hand notes you took while talking to a reference on the phone.

Reference checks are an essential part of all hiring processes. If you’re getting bad information, you’re not going to be able to determine how a candidate will really perform on the job.

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