Q: Do You Recommend Doing Reference Checks?
A: Speaking to references is a great way to get more information about applicants and to verify the information they’ve provided to you. As a best practice, obtain an applicant’s formal written consent to check their references, but if they’ve provided you with a reference list with names and contact methods for this specific purpose, additional authorization is likely not needed.
When speaking with references, open-ended questions are often the most helpful—if they are willing and able to answer them. Ask whether the applicant would be a good fit for the role and what skills the applicant has that would make them well-suited to it. You can also ask about any times the applicant needed to be coached and how they responded to feedback.
If a reference doesn’t seem willing or able to answer open-ended questions, you can ask them to confirm employment information that the candidate has already provided (e.g., dates of employment, reason for leaving). In the process, the reference may open up about the applicant’s strengths and weaknesses related to their previous position or about other job-related details. If they don’t, then ask whether they’d recommend the applicant for your position. Even a simple yes or no answer will speak volumes.
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