Reference Checking: How much do you really need to know?
The interviewing is over and it is time to make an offer to the candidate who stands out above the crowd. Reference checks are getting harder and harder to validate due to the privacy laws in Canada, and many companies now have an HR policy that only allows for job validation, not reference checking.
Kathy Murphy, HR Director for Regulus Investments Inc. says when you embark on a reference check you are looking for “fit” and for employment gaps. She counsels that you look at the resume, reread your interview notes and ascertain what doesn’t jive. Make note of where there are employment gaps and missing dates. Notice whether there is an abundance of short term employment, this could be a potential red flag. Large gaps between jobs could mean unemployment, a return to school or personal leave; you want to know for sure where they’ve been, (hopefully not in jail).
The position being filled will determine the extensiveness of the reference check. If you hire a reference checking company such as BackCheck or Garda, you have criminologists undertaking some or all of the following:
- Criminal record checks
- Background checks
- Credit rating
- Reference checks
- Employment verifications
- Education verifications
- Driver Abstracts
Before a criminal or credit check can be administered the candidate must sign a release saying they give their permission to have such tests conducted. The Criminal check will uncover a Clear or Not Clear status depending on whether they have a record of unpardoned criminal offenses. Few jobs are such that they require in depth reporting where finger prints are needed, but it has been known to happen. They are necessary if you are looking for a Clarified Clear from the reference checker.
Credit checks are conducted with companies with whom the candidate has opened an account such as utility companies, cable TV or retail stores. To qualify for credit, one fills out a job history section. It is a huge red flag if the jobs listed don’t jive with the resume. Every time a payment is made to a creditor there is a record. If a candidates credit isn’t accessed regularly, that could be another red flag.
As the hiring company you are looking to validate several aspects of a candidates’ life through their list of supplied references. You’ll want to see at least two business and one character reference. You want to know if they are reliable, other words, do they show up for work every day. Their education has to be verified for authenticity and truth in their graduation years.
These are some important questions you can legally ask that reveal volumes about a candidate:
1. How long have you known the applicant?
2. How long did you know them at XYZ company?
3. What were their responsibilities? What did they do for you?
4. Why did they leave?
5. What are their strengths?
6. Give me an example of their trustworthiness.
7. What was their punctuality record?
8. How did they relate to other team members? To their superiors? To their subordinates?
9. How did they self motivate to work well alone?
10. What area their areas of growth or that need development?
11. What plans did you have for their future?
Kathy Murphy says the most important question that you want an answer to is “Would you rehire this person?” She adds that there is an unwritten “code” between HR professionals that at the very least, they will answer this question honestly.
Last but not least, there is the use of assessment tools as an aid to making a candidate an offer. Kathy utilizes the BarOn Emotional Intelligence, EQ-i, test to put the icing on the cake for seriously considered new hires.
Reference checking aside, making the right decision to hire the right person also requires strong intuition and the ability to read body language and between the lines in an interview.
Career Specialist and Corporate Trainer
Author of Networking: How to Build Relationships That Count and How to Get a Job and Keep It