Look Before You Leap
When you’re looking for a great candidate to fill an important role in your company, it’s best to take your time. Even if you need the position filled right away, an employee that’s a poor fit could cause you a bigger headache in the long run than letting a spot stay open a little longer.
It’s easy to get caught up in someone who looks great on paper. They may have all the right skills listed, paired with amazing accomplishments, but it’s important to remember that the resume is just one factor. To really understand whether an applicant is the best fit for your workplace, you need to talk with the people who can give you first-hand information: their references.
Not only do reference checks allow you to verify facts from their resume, cover letter and interviews, but they also give you an insider view at how they are viewed by other professionals. A resume doesn’t paint the entire picture of your candidate’s experience and background. References can give you insight into the specific projects they may have worked on, their interactions with team members and personal details like punctuality and ability to meet deadlines.
The Etiquette Of Checking Employee References
Before you make your first call, it’s good to know best practices behind checking the references of a potential employee. It’s always smart to be transparent with your candidate about the process, making sure that they know you will be calling their references.
While it may be tempting to reach out to someone you know who has worked with your candidate but isn’t on their list, experts generally advise against speaking with someone who may not be able to provide an accurate representation. It can also be a barrier to building a trusting relationship with a new employee if they find out after being hired that an employer went behind their back for a reference.
Finally, make sure you provide whomever you call with enough context to provide feedback that will be useful to you. Lay out the roles and responsibilities of the position so that the reference can talk about strengths and weaknesses related to them.
And, of course, avoid asking any discriminatory questions about a candidate’s personal life such as their age, familial status, religion, etc.
The Best Questions For Insight On A Potential Employee
Glassdoor is one of the world’s largest job and recruiting sites, combined with a growing database of company reviews, CEO approval ratings, salary reports, interview reviews and questions. Here are their six top questions to ask references about a potential employee.
- How would you describe the candidate’s reliability and dependability?
Qualities like reliability, punctuality, self-motivation and the like should be a given in a strong candidate, but that doesn’t mean you should assume a candidate possesses them without checking first.
- What are the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses?
You’ll likely ask your candidates to answer this question themselves during an interview, but checking their answer against their reference can show you how self-aware they are and whether or not they are a good fit for the particular role at hand.
- What was one of the candidate’s most memorable accomplishments while working with you?
The difference between a good employee and a great employee can often be traced back to whether they regularly went above and beyond their every day responsibilities.
- What type of work environment do you think the candidate will most likely thrive in and why?
When you’re interviewing a candidate you’re not only trying to determine if they are a good fit for your company, but also that your company is the right place for them. If your company isn’t the sort of place where a candidate can thrive, they’re much more likely to perform at a lower level or leave the company more quickly.
- What skills would you have liked to see the candidate develop to reach their full potential?
Rarely will you find a potential employee who meets every one of your desired qualifications, but a question like this can help identify gaps in the candidate’s skills. If they are missing something critical to the success of the role in question, you can better determine if you need to move on to someone else or if you’re willing to help them develop professionally.
- Would you recommend this candidate?
It’s a straightforward question, but still an important one that shouldn’t be ignored. Some references may feel obligated to highlight the positive and downplay the negative when asked about a candidate’s strengths or accomplishments – but with a question as blunt as this it can be much clearer whether they are sincere about their endorsement.