Why Conduct Reference Checks?

By Tiffany Kirton, Staffing Manager

You may think that conducting reference checks is just a waste of time. One client recently suggested I could skip doing them, saying it’s safe to assume that a candidate will not provide a reference who will give negative feedback. While this is probably true, you can still learn some very valuable information about a candidate from speaking with their references. Doing a background check or even a drug screen can tell you that the candidate has not been involved in illegal activity, but this doesn’t really give you any insight as to their performance and behavior in the workplace.

Candidates are always going to be on their best behavior during an interview. They will likely present you with a sharp resume and letters of recommendation. They will be sure to mention any past career accomplishments they are proud of. It is their job to sell themselves to you, after all. However, we all have areas we can improve in, and conducting reference checks can help you learn what those areas are for your future employee. You have the opportunity to get first-hand feedback from past supervisors. By asking open-ended questions, you can learn what areas to focus on for employee development and ensure future success for both you and your employee.

Often, doing reference checks can shed positive light on a candidate you may feel unsure about. Last week, I had a client who interviewed my candidate and liked her but wasn’t sure how she would work with upper management. I called the candidate’s references and asked open-ended questions to learn how her previous interactions had been with those above her. When her references spoke positively about this specific issue, the client felt much more comfortable and made the hire.

Hiring a new employee is a big decision, and conducting reference checks is a great way to learn how an employee has acted in the past. If you’d like guidance on conducting your own reference checks, read more.

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