Questions to Ask When Checking References

As we become more accustomed to the changes that are taking place in the world, the transition to the ‘new normal’ has become commonplace. Adjustments to our working environment, such as transitioning from on-site to remote work, or assessing our corporate objectives, have become a regular part of our day-to-day lives.

Recruiting new team members remains a difficult and lengthy process, regardless of the number of businesses transitioning to remote employment. One of the initial questions that needs to be addressed is whether or not to ask about previous employers.

It may be beneficial to consider conducting reference checks during these uncertain times. It is important to ensure that any actions taken are not a waste of time or resources. Personal reference checks can be particularly useful when external hiring is required, as opposed to recruiting from within the existing team.

The employment process has never been more important than it is right now, given the current state of affairs.

The global pandemic of 2023 demonstrated how quickly the conventions of society can change. It is impossible to control the whole world, however it is possible to create a strong and unified team. This is achieved through the effective interviewing and referencing process of recruitment.

How Do Reference Checks Work, and Why Do They Matter?

We recommend contacting each candidate’s references by mail or phone to corroborate their past experience in order to make an informed decision before extending an offer.

There is no discrepancy between what your intuition has suggested and what is suggested here. Therefore, there is no requirement for an extensive reference checking process if the interview process is comprehensive.

Recall Frank Abagnale, star of the film ‘Catch Me If You Can’? Prior to his 19th birthday, he worked for Pan American World Airways in the film. There was also a doctor from Georgia, a prosecutor from Louisiana, and the most accomplished check forger ever – so proficient at his craft that the FBI employed him. No amount of interviewing could uncover his false identities.

Finding someone like Frank, who can transition between roles seamlessly, is a rare privilege. Unfortunately, it is not always realistic to assume complete honesty from those in managerial or leadership roles in our imperfect society, meaning the chances of success are slim.

A reference check with a candidate’s previous supervisor can provide useful insights into how they interacted with colleagues and handled authority, as well as validating the candidate’s identity.

It is essential to ensure accuracy of information and skills when considering a candidate, in addition to assessing their work ethic, attitude and punctuality. Undertaking reference checks is a worthwhile investment of time, as it can help to eliminate any potential issues with training.

How and When to Inquire About a Person’s References Is Essential.

Time is of the essence when it comes to verifying individual references. Reference checks are just as time-consuming as conducting interviews. Your team has likely dedicated a considerable amount of time to reviewing numerous CVs. Is it feasible to ask references questions at this stage, considering that the responsibility to conduct the checks lies with you?

Applicants are typically willing to provide multiple references if requested. However, verifying these references would require a significant amount of time and effort, as it would involve calling a large number of previous supervisors, attempting to identify potential issues, and assessing the value of the CV in question. In addition, without any visual cues it could be difficult to recall information regarding the applicant.

Most applicants will provide multiple references if it is made clear that they will be subject to verification. To do this without any guidance as to which questions to ask or whether the CV is worth reviewing would require making numerous calls to past employers without any indication of the likely outcome. Additionally, without the use of visual elements, it would be difficult to recall information about the candidate.

When seeking information from a reference, it’s important to remember the following guidelines:

  • Introduce yourself and your organization to the reference you’re calling, and tell them who recommended them and for what role.
  • Get on the phone and set up a time to talk briefly about the candidate when you have everyone’s attention.
  • Confidentiality of reference inquiries and responses must be assured.
  • Check job history, education level, and list of skills.
  • Get a recommendation on the candidate’s suitability for the job opening in question.
  • Give the individual being used as a reference plenty of time to respond to your questions.

Top 5 Reference-Checking Strategies

To review, these are the five most important things to keep in mind when contacting past employers for references.

  1. Be sure to let candidates know you will be checking references (This will also scare away people with fake references avoiding extra useless work).
  2. It is advisable to take personal responsibility for assessing potential candidates for the role, rather than delegating the task to another individual. You have the autonomy to make the final decision on who is the most suitable applicant.
  3. Even if your memory is excellent, managing multiple potential candidates at once can be challenging, so it is advisable to take some notes.
  4. Invite the former manager to participate in an open dialogue by asking direct questions. This will be a more effective way of uncovering any warning signs than asking leading questions.
  5. You should never take somebody at their word.

It is essential to bear in mind that some job applicants may embellish their qualifications. It could be that they need money urgently or a quick solution. Regardless of their reasons, it is important to identify the best person for the role. It is important not to take anything personally.

How to Ace the Reference Check in 2023 (and Beyond)

It is an opportune moment to pursue references for the potential team members we have met. We are well-prepared and I recommend setting up a video call with the references to gather further information about the applicants (please ensure to take notes).

You should primarily inquire about the following when contacting references:

  1. Tell me about the candidate’s current position, including their job title, pay, and primary duties.
  2. Justify your decision to hire this person.
  3. She or he gave no reason for leaving the firm.
  4. Would you, if given the opportunity, return to him or her? The question is, why?
  5. A member of your team maybe disagreeing with you?
  6. Do you know the candidate’s strongest abilities?
  7. How does the applicant typically communicate with other employees and upper management?
  8. Where does this applicant excel and where does he or she fall short?
  9. Do you have any suggestions on how I may better handle the candidate?
  10. Do you think there’s anything I should have asked but didn’t?

It is important to remain vigilant and heed any warning signs, even if they may not be as charismatic as Leonardo DiCaprio’s portrayal of Frank Abagnale in the film ‘Catch Me If You Can’. There are many criminals and fraudsters in the world, and it is important to be aware of any potential risks.

Regardless of whether you are recruiting remotely or on-site, attention to detail is paramount. The best way to determine if a candidate is suitable for your team is to contact their references. This lengthy process is ultimately intended to help you identify innovative additions that will benefit your organization. If you do not have the resources to manually review hundreds of CVs, we are available to offer assistance.

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