The process of checking references


One of the steps you will take before offering someone a position at your workplace is to check references. Those that skip this step often regret it, so it pays to do your research. It can be tricky to know how to go about it though, so here’s a guide to get you started.

Dig as deep as you can

Bear in mind that due to a lot of lawsuits, some employers have resorted to only giving extremely basic information about their employees, such as their dates of employment. Although this is limited information, at the very least you’ll be able to uncover any gaps in employment that may not have been disclosed.

When checking references, always ask if they’re able to supply as much information as possible, and if they say no, ask them if this is corporate policy before you assume it’s because the employee has been less than desirable.

If a very basic reference comes back and you’re still unsure of a candidate, ask if they can provide character references from someone who knows them in another capacity.


Make it easy

If you include a form with some basic questions in your request for a reference, it makes the chances of receiving it back much more likely. It gives them an idea of what information you need and makes it easy for them to fill in without having to write a lengthy letter. Try to avoid including any leading questions, and keep it as straightforward as possible.


What to ask

There’s probably plenty of things you want to ask a previous employer, but you want to keep it as basic as possible. Some ideas for things to ask include the following:

  • Dates of employment
  • Position held
  • Why did they leave? (if not a current job)
  • What were their responsibilities?
  • Were there any issues that affected job performance?
  • Did they get on well with co-workers and management?
  • Would you rehire this person?


What to do if you get a bad reference

It seems unlikely that someone would include a reference that was going to be bad on a CV, but it does happen. If you receive a less than perfect recommendation, it’s worth double checking with a different employer or with a character reference to see if they agree.

The next step is to check with the candidate why they think they might have received a bad reference to give them chance to explain any problems or to discuss it further. It will be up to you then to decide whether you still want to make the job offer.


Don’t forget educational claims

It’s not just past employment you might want to check up on. It’s not uncommon for people to exaggerate claims they’ve made about degree results thinking that nobody will check. If it’s particularly important that the position requires a certain qualification, then it pays to give the university or college a quick call to check claims are true. It’s also a good place to find character references if you’re employing someone without a long job history or has recently graduated.

Don’t check references – end up with nightmare employees. Don’t let that happen to you, make sure you check references before handing out that all important contract. In our guide to checking references you’ll discover the best questions to ask, what to do if you receive a bad reference and the importance of character references.

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