The best piece of recruitment advice we can give you may seem obvious, but the amount of times we have to deal with distraught employers, who could have saved themselves a lot of disappointment by performing a thorough background check.
- Take the reference checking process seriously
It’s frightening to think of the number of people who will actually bring someone into their organisation relying on the feedback gained from a 2-minute phone conversation. Perhaps trusting a 2-line email; or maybe without even carrying out any reference checks at all. They’re usually badly burnt after 3 – 6 months of the new employee being in the job.
2. Conduct at least 2 verbal reference checks
There are candidates out there who look great on paper but who perform poorly during interview. But there are also candidates who perform very well during interview but once they are on the job it’s a different story altogether. That is why you need to get an idea of how they performed in an actual job from a previous employer. Before you bring anybody new into your team you should really carry out two verbal reference checks. It’s the perfect way for you to understand how they really perform on the job.
3. Plan your questions carefully
When you are speaking to a candidate’s former supervisor. You need to think back to the core skills as well as the core competencies and key success measures that you had created for the job. If during your interview you asked the candidate questions around communication, decision-making and time management, you should then ask the referee exactly the same questions. The questions you ask should prompt the candidate’s former supervisor to talk about the candidate’s actual past experiences and behaviour .
4. You’re allowed to ask one hypothetical question
One question you might also want to consider asking at the very end of every conversation with a referee is something along the lines of “So would you ever re-employ [insert name here]?”. This should be the only hypothetical question in the entire discussion. But the answer to this question can speak volumes.
5. Take detailed notes
It’s always a relief when you hear positive feedback about the candidate you are so desperate to hire. In fact you may have even already made them an offer (I’ll leave tips around making an offer subject to references for another time). But it’s still important to take notes during your calls with past employers. You never know when you might need to refer back to some of the comments further down the track (e.g., during performance reviews).
6. Beware of fake referees
You wouldn’t believe how many so-called professional candidates out there will provide fake referees. When someone is desperate to get a new job, they’ll resort to anything. Make sure you’re really talking to a previous employer. Do your due diligence. If a candidate gives you the details of a past boss, check them out on LinkedIn, and ideally call them on a land line at the organisation. Better still, after you’ve spoken to them, connect with them on LinkedIn and thank them for taking the time to speak to you. You’ll quickly find out if you actually spoke with an ‘imposter’.
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