Are you taking your reference checks seriously?

As part of every recruitment process there is the mandatory step of conducting reference checks. Unfortunately this process is most often a cursory check and not given due importance. When is the last time you have heard of someone failing the reference check process? Tweet this. The reference check can actually provide very significant and valuable feedback about the hire which can be used very effectively while engaging the employee once he joins.


Generally reference checks take place at the end of the process. In many cases there is a mad rush to get the candidate on board and organisations sometimes conduct the reference check after the employee joins. Increasingly the process has become what we call, a tick in the box activity.

Reference checks are normally conducted with references provided by the candidate and hence it’s natural for the reference to highlight the strengths and maybe even exaggerate. To get an overall perspective about the candidate reference checks should include a friend, a peer and an ex boss.

If we ask the right questions we can get honest and important information about the candidate. However there is a certain amount of preparation that is involved. Assess what is it that you want to focus on. Questions should focus on the relevant information that is required by the organisation to assess if the candidate is a good hire or not. It should involve past experience, strengths, weaknesses, interpersonal skills, overall personality and behaviour.

While most reference checks are form driven and parameters are rated on a scale of 1 to 10, we need to make sure that the reference is also able to provide qualitative feedback or examples of when the candidate has displayed these attributes. If the reference is unable to clearly cite examples or instances then you know something is amiss. Open ended questions are a lot more useful instead of yes/no questions to be able to gauge the employee better.

Feedback that is captured should be carefully documented and provided to the reporting manager once the candidate joins the company. This can be very useful as the Manager is aware of his strengths and can provide him with an environment where he or she prospers and not set them up for failure.

A reference check is not a fishing expedition, but an important part of the hiring process. Tweet this Checking your candidate’s references is the only real means you have of verifying their experiences and competence they represented in their resume and interview. It takes time and money to train new employees. By conducting effective reference checks you can find out if the candidate has misrepresented themselves in order to obtain role within the organization.