Questions to Ask When Checking References

The world is evolving, and we are adapting to a ‘new normal’. Changes in our work setups, from working at a physical office to remote locations and evaluating our business goals, are now frequent dimensions of our daily routine.

Even though numerous businesses now offer remote work, recruiting new members into the team remains a challenging and time-consuming process. One of the first queries that arise is whether to inquire about the candidate’s past work experiences.

It could be advantageous to perform reference checks amidst these uncertain times. It is essential to verify that the efforts put in are not futile. Checking personal references can be specifically advantageous when opting for outside recruitment instead of internal promotions.

With the current situation, the employment procedure has gained utmost significance.

The 2023 worldwide pandemic was a testament to how swiftly societal norms can alter. Although the world may be uncontrollable, building a robust and united team is attainable. This can be accomplished by ensuring a thorough and efficient recruitment strategy that includes interviewing and referencing.

What is the Significance of Reference Checks and How Do They Operate?

To make an informed decision before providing an offer, we suggest communicating with the applicant’s references via mail or phone to verify their prior work experience.

If the interview process is extensive, there is little need for a detailed reference check, as it aligns with your intuition.

Do you remember Frank Abagnale, the central character of the movie ‘Catch Me If You Can?’ He worked for Pan American World Airways in the movie before he turned 19. There have been instances of a doctor from Georgia, an attorney from Louisiana, and an adept cheque forger – whose abilities were so exceptional that even the FBI employed him. In such situations, no amount of interviewing could unearth their false identities.

Coming across someone like Frank, who can flawlessly shift between positions, is a rare indulgence. Regrettably, in our imperfect world, it is not always practical to presume absolute transparency from individuals in managerial or leadership positions, implying that the possibility of success is low.

Collaborating with an applicant’s former manager to verify the candidate’s identity and obtain valuable insights into their teamwork and leadership skills can be beneficial.

In addition to evaluating an applicant’s work ethic, attitude, and punctuality, it is crucial to guarantee the accuracy of their information and expertise when considering them. Conducting reference checks is a valuable use of time, as it can weed out any prospective training problems.

The Importance of Knowing When and How to Request References.

Validating individual references is a time-sensitive process that is equally as time-consuming as conducting interviews. Given that your team has probably spent a significant amount of time reviewing several CVs, it is important to consider whether it is practical to request reference information at this point, since it is your responsibility to conduct the checks.

If requested, candidates are often willing to provide several references. However, confirming these references demands a substantial amount of time and energy, as it involves reaching out to numerous prior managers, attempting to identify any potential concerns, and evaluating the accuracy of the submitted CV. Furthermore, without any visual cues, it may be challenging to recall information about the applicant.

If informed that their references will be screened, most candidates will provide multiple sources. However, without any guidance on which questions to ask or the relevance of the submitted CV, conducting numerous previous employer calls without a clear indication of the expected outcome would be necessary. Furthermore, it would be challenging to remember information about the applicant without any visual aids.

To obtain information from a reference, it is important to keep the following guidelines in mind:

  • Introduce yourself and your organisation to the reference you are contacting and identify the source of their recommendation and the role they are being recommended for.
  • Arrange a brief conversation about the candidate when everyone is available by calling and scheduling a suitable time.
  • It is crucial to ensure confidentiality when making and receiving reference inquiries.
  • Confirm the applicant’s job history, educational qualifications, and skill set.
  • Request an evaluation of the candidate’s suitability for the specific job vacancy.
  • Allow the reference ample time to respond to your queries.

5 Most Effective Approaches for Checking References

To summarise, these are the top five factors to consider when connecting with prior employers for references.

  1. Inform candidates that references will be checked (This will also deter individuals with fraudulent references from proceeding with the application).
  2. It is recommended to take personal ownership of evaluating potential candidates for the role, rather than assigning the task to someone else. As you have the final say on who is the best fit, you have the freedom to make the ultimate decision.
  3. Handling several candidates at the same time can be difficult, so it is recommended to take notes, even if you have a great memory.
  4. Encourage the previous employer to engage in an open and honest conversation by posing clear questions. This is a more efficient approach to discovering any red flags than asking suggestive questions.
  5. It is never advisable to trust someone blindly.

It is crucial to remember that certain job seekers may exaggerate their qualifications, perhaps due to financial constraints or a pressing need for a job. Despite their motivations, the key is to select the most qualified candidate for the position. It is important to not take anything personally.

Mastering the Art of Reference Checks in 2023 (and Beyond)

Now is the perfect time to reach out to references for the potential team members we have interviewed. We are well-equipped, and I suggest arranging a video call with the references to obtain additional insights about the candidates (please remember to take notes).

When reaching out to references, the following should be your primary areas of focus:

  1. Kindly provide details about the candidate’s current role, such as job title, compensation, and key responsibilities.
  2. Rationalise your choice to select this individual for the job.
  3. The candidate did not indicate a reason for departing from the company.
  4. If given the chance, would you re-hire this candidate? If yes, what is the reason behind your decision?
  5. Is there a team member who might have a different perspective than yours?
  6. Can you identify the candidate’s greatest strengths?
  7. What is the candidate’s usual method of communication with coworkers and higher-ups? You may refer to the top team collaboration and communication tools of 2023 for further context.
  8. In what areas does this candidate excel and where do they need improvement?
  9. Do you have any recommendations on how I can effectively manage this candidate?
  10. Is there anything that I failed to ask that you believe is important to consider?

Staying cautious and paying attention to any potential red flags is crucial, regardless of whether they are as charming as Frank Abagnale portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie ‘Catch Me If You Can’. With numerous criminals and fraudsters preying on unsuspecting individuals, it is imperative to stay vigilant and take necessary precautions.

Whether you are recruiting remotely or in-person, paying close attention to detail is crucial. One of the most effective ways to evaluate a candidate’s potential fit for your team is by reaching out to their references. This methodical process aims to help you identify exceptional talents that would contribute to your organization’s growth. In case you lack the resources to meticulously review hundreds of resumes, we are here to provide our assistance.

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