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Mistakes to Avoid When Checking References

Traditionally, hiring managers or HR personnel check candidates’ references after job interviews have wrapped up, but a new way of thinking suggests that calling references earlier in the process is a better way of screening candidates for in-person interviews.

Regardless of when you check references, there are a few common mistakes that need to be avoided. These common errors include not checking at all (!), a lack of consistency, not requiring references who have worked with the candidate and asking bad questions.

Consider the following reference-check mistakes that should be avoided at all costs.

Not even checking

Some job seekers submit a weak set of professional references and hope an employer won’t contact them. When you don’t check references, you’re playing right into this ploy and that increases the chances you’ll be hiring somebody who tries to pull the wool over your eyes.

At the bare minimum, you should be calling each reference to confirm they actually exist and can vouch for the candidate in question.

Not being consistent

In order to safeguard against claims of discrimination, every single part of your company’s hiring process needs to be consistent from candidate to candidate.

It’s true that every applicant is different; however, the process must be identical for each applicant: Contact every single reference for every single applicant you’re considering at that particular stage of the process.

Not requiring that references have worked with the candidate

When you don’t mandate that applicants include references who have direct knowledge of their work habits, you open the door to all kinds of crazy references, like the uncle who’s a politician or the friend who works at your company.

Companies have every right to ask applicants to supply the kinds of references they want to contact, not just the ones the applicant wants to provide. Every company should insist applicants supply the names of former supervisors, peers, clients or subordinates. While a good mix of those three may not always be possible, the idea is to speak with individuals who have actually worked with the applicant on a regular basis within the past five to seven years.

Not asking good questions

Talking to references is a golden opportunity during the hiring process. Even if references have been well coached, you can still gain significant insight into candidates by talking with them, but only if you ask good questions.

As much as possible, avoid asking yes-or-no questions. For instance, instead of asking, “Was Bob a good leader?” you should ask, “How would you describe Bob’s leadership style?” or “Can you tell me about a time Bob failed as a leader and how he handled it?”

Also, don’t just take responses at face value. If something sounds like a stock answer, ask a follow-up question to get more detail.

At Thompson Technologies, we assist our clients with many facets for their talent acquisition process, so they can focus more on other activities. Please contact us today to find out how we can help your company.

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