Recruitment Workbook: Part 4 – Verbal Reference Checks

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This article is written to provide you with an understanding of why Reference Checks should be conducted after the interviewing process and to give you a template to use.

Now in the recruitment process, we have sourced applicants, read their resumes, and met with the candidates to discuss their experience, what comes next?

The last step in the recruitment process before an offer of employment is extended is conducting reference checks, which is also the last tab you will find in the Recruitment Workbook. In this phase, the recruiter will complete their candidate assessment by doing their homework, which is done by reaching out to the candidates references for performance feedback by speaking to their former employers.

Reference checks take roughly 15 minutes to complete and are generally conducted over the phone. However, there are instances where they can be completed in-person or if a reference is not comfortable speaking, they may prefer to write a reference letter which provides details outlining the individuals past performance, traits, strengths and weaknesses, and even sometimes if they are welcome to be hired back. All these methods are acceptable, we just caution that if you do receive a reference letter that you check it is valid. This can be done by calling the number provided on the letter if you want to confirm that the persons name on the letter is the person who actually wrote it.

When it comes to completing references, there are two competing views around it. Some recruiters love them, and others find them to be a waste of time because, why would anyone give out a bad reference?

There are different approaches that a recruiter can take to check the validity of someone’s reference such as asking for an office contact number over a mobile number, calling the company directly to speak to the reference, or checking LinkedIn to direct message their reference. You will quickly learn whether you are about to speak to an imposter or not, which could speak volumes about the candidates integrity.

Reference checks ensure that the hiring team is not only making a more informed decision based on the candidates previous working behaviours but also the integrity of the information they provided during the recruitment process. No matter how qualified someone looks on paper or how impressive they have been during their interview, reference checks should not be forgotten.

When it comes to speaking to the references, its best to have a template ready rather than “winging it”. Refrain from asking yes or no question and ask questions that are open ended, which will allow you to identify the grey areas from what you read on the candidates resume or how they answered their questions. Be sure you are asking questions that allows you to assess if the person will be a cultural fit for your company as well as for the specified job.

As mentioned before, references should be completed before you make an offer to the candidate. We recommend completing at least two verbal references to gain further understanding on how someone performs on the job. It is always a relief when you hear positive feedback (especially after a long recruitment process), in instances where you may hear negative feedback, it is important to not let that completely deter you away from hiring someone.

If you come across a reference that was mediocre, you can always go back to the candidate and ask for a third reference to help you with your decision. If they do not have another reference to give, the company may want to ask for a reference from someone who the indirectly reported too or make the decision if they are going to risk hiring the candidate or move forward with another one. It is important to make sure that you are always doing your due diligence in ironing out any concerns you may have.

Reference checks can also help protect the company from legal liabilities, you would not want to hire someone with a fraudulent past. There are times when references help dig out the true story behind why a candidate was terminated.

Finally, reference checks are done to assist the company with deciding on who to hire (especially if you have two competing candidates for a role). Verbal references can be the best indicator on what to expect from the candidate you are planning on hiring. The cost of hiring the wrong person could be financially costly such as paying out severance, the time spent onboarding them, training, and then having to go back to the drawing board to start the recruitment process again.

For an example template of questions that a company may want to ask their prospective employees, download tab three of the Recruitment Workbook – Reference Check. Keep in mind that these questions are general and can be revised based on your company’s needs and culture!

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Visit our Resource Library for all available downloads.

If you require assistance with any of the guides, forms or templates, please contact a BIG representative.

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