As a general rule, the statement “the best predictor of the future is the past” has value when it comes to making a call regarding a candidate’s future performance. A reference check is one of the best ways to get feedback on a candidate’s personality and work ethic. Conducting an effective reference check and evaluating the feedback received in the right context can contribute greatly to your employee selection process.
A reference check can provide insight into details that no other method within the candidate selection process is able to raise to the surface. Below are some guidelines which can help you get the most out of a reference check.
• You should choose the references you contact. Candidates will often provide a list of references themselves. These are fine to use, but you should also ask the candidate to provide contact information for the references which are not listed.
• Conduct the right number of reference interviews. Try to personally do about four and ask your colleagues to do three.
• Interview references on different levels of the rung. Interview the candidate’s former supervisor, coworkers, assistants, peers, customers, etc.
• Ask the candidate to contact the references to set up the calls. If you are having a difficult time reaching a reference, feel free to ask the candidate for assistance.
• Make sure to ask these three ‘What” questions:
- In what context did you work with the person?
- What were the person’s biggest strengths?
- What were the person’s biggest areas of improvement back then?
• Ask the reference to rate the candidate on a 1-10 scale. You should be looking for people who consistently get ratings of 8, 9, and 10.
• A truly positive reference should brim with tremendous enthusiasm and obvious admiration. Pay attention to what people say and how they say it. Try to read between the lines. Most people speak in a kind of common code when they want to indicate that a candidate is problematic. Um’s and er’s are codes for unspoken problems. Neutral, bland references full of faint praise are codes for bad references.