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Tips for Effective Reference Checking

Posted on 04/01/2015

by Russ Rosenberg

Use the following checklist to help you check references:

Asset Control offers customized reference checking for our clients and we can provide this service for you.  However, we recognize that some clients are doing this part themselves, either for budgetary or other reasons.  With that in mind we felt it would be appropriate to discuss the appropriate methodology of conducting reference checks.

  • Tell each applicant that no employment offer will be made until satisfactory reference checks are made.
  • Verify that the contact information for each reference is current and accurate. Be sure to obtain phone and email contact information.
  • Call and/or write to each reference given.
  • Ask the applicant to contact the reference in advance to ease communication.
  • If you request references in writing, include a signed release by the job applicant permitting the release of the information you want.
  • Be consistent in the questions you ask. Be sure to ask open ended questions such as “tell me about the applicants attendance history” as opposed to asking “did the applicant meet attendance”.
  • Document all information that you receive, including off hand comments.
  • Also document unsuccessful tries at gathering information, in order to protect yourself from negligent hiring claims.
  • If the former supervisor won't tell you anything, record the fact that he or she refused to give any information about the applicant.
  •  If you can't get the requested information from references, ask the job applicant to provide alternate references.
  • Remember that professional references are generally more useful than personal references.
  • It is OK to ask a reference for an additional reference to confirm information about an applicant.
  • Don't make a job offer until you've completed your reference checking.

Conducting reference checks is a time consuming endeavor. If you choose to do it yourself, be sure you develop a systematic approach, avoid bias or the appearance of bias and be sure to document everything. If a reference check is a causal factor in the hiring decision, be sure that you have been accurate in your reporting.

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