In business making decisions without evaluating all the facts can generally lead to expensive mistakes. There is a balance between undertaking core profit making tasks and following an often costly recruitment process. It is the responsibility of the hiring manager to ensure the information surrounding a candidate has been sufficiently acquired and vetted prior to making a job offer.
Time and time again businesses will fail and make bad hiring decisions on the basis of something that was overlooked in the recruitment process. Usually the first quality measure that is left out is the reference check.
One of the primary reasons for undertaking a reference check is to avoid being blind-sided by an employee that is not willing or capable of doing the job that they applied for, but their application suggested otherwise and they were interviewed for for the role.
If you have worked in sales or ever done a presentation then no doubt you have walked out of a meeting after doing very well and suddenly realised that you missed parts of your pitch out. What makes you think that it is any different for even the best candidates at interview?
Employment reference checks are not witch hunts – you should never approach them to see if you can dig up dirt (more on that further down). Often candidates in their eagerness to present themselves might omit details about key experiences that a skilled reference checker might pick up.
Evidence & Compliance
As an HR Manager or Recruiter when you present a short-list one of the questions that you will be repeatedly asked is “How do you know that?”
The employment reference checking process is part of building a chain of evidence that puts you in control of a valid decision making process.
You answer should always be “I checked!.”
Information Is Power
If you undertake a reference check and you don’t come out with more knowledge about the candidate and their work experience then you don’t have the necessary information to make a hiring decision.
It is common to learn new facets about a candidate’s experience and whilst these may be interesting you have to look at them objectively. For example where do they fit in to the assessment of the candidate?
Consider this response:
John was careless when using a forklift truck when he was on his own in the warehouse.
This example shows how we can gather the evidence but it does not imply, by itself, how we should evaluate it.
You should always gain the permission from a candidate to speak to their referees from them directly by asking. This does two things:
When you have the response from a referee then you should use it in further interview processes and conversations with the candidates.
Me: John can you tell me about the warehouse work that you used to do and what was involved? John: I used to check the goods for dispatch and wait for the truck to arrive. I arranged the pallets in the middle of the bay so I could load the truck quicker by being organised.
Is John being careless? Is his arrangement of the pallets unsafe? Is it an example of an employee adding efficiencies to the work place procedures? – like anything it depends on the role they were in and the role they are now applying for. Clearly this is a contrived example and only for the basis of understanding how information that is collected through the reference check process should be used.
There are example reference check forms at the bottom of every page of this site, there is nothing stopping you from copying them and extending them for your own purposes. But beware that checking employment references is not just about rattling through a list of questions in a rush to rubber stamp the strongest candidate.
One of the key attributes we look for in Reference Checking Consultants is an enquiring and analytical mind. The questions should provide a basis for a check but it is the conversation that provides the value.
Open and closed ended questions are used to probe and evaluate a response to make sure that you get to the desired level of detail required in a professional reference check:
Q: Would you hire this worker again? A: No
Q: What would make you consider hiring this worker again? A: All staff need a forklift ticket, so if they got their ticket they could come back
Performing a correct reference check is not an exercise in endorsing or rejecting a candidate it is an exercise in collecting information with which to use in a hiring decision.
A lack of objectivity is the biggest killer of a valid reference check.
It is too common for line managers to pass reference checks off to their assistants who are already drowning in previously delegated tasks. Every Recruiter has made the mistake at one time or another of pinning their hopes to a candidate which has lead them on a crusade and ignored crucial aspects of the reference checking process.
If someone is costing you $80,000 per year then the cost of recruitment is going to be around $5,000 – $15,000.
It will take 3 months for them to get past probation and that is when some of their bad traits are going to manifest.
When you terminate them you are going to be paying out leave and the exit process will probably take 3 more months.
And then you will have fund the cost of another recruitment process.
|Cost of Recruitment:||$5,000 – $15,000|
|First 3 months costs:||$20,000|
|Managing them out over 3 months:||$20,000|
|Holiday pay out:||$3,250|
|Cost of Recruitment again!:||$5,000 – $15,000|
|Total:||$48,255 – $68,255|