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How to Conduct a Thorough Reference Check to Make Better Hires

What is a reference check?

When it comes to hiring new employees, companies want to ensure they are making the best possible decision. A resume and interview can provide valuable insights, but to truly get a comprehensive understanding of a candidate's abilities and character, employers turn to reference checks. In this article, we will dive into the world of reference checks, exploring what they are, why they matter, and how they are conducted.

## The importance of reference checks

Reference checks play a crucial role in the hiring process as they allow employers to verify the information provided by candidates and gather additional insights from previous employers or colleagues. These checks serve as a validation of a candidate's skills, experience, and character, helping employers make informed decisions.

There are several reasons why reference checks are of utmost importance:

### Verifying information

Resumes and interviews provide an initial glimpse into a candidate's qualifications and achievements. However, it's crucial to verify this information to ensure its accuracy. Reference checks allow employers to confirm the candidate's employment history, educational qualifications, and other key details, reducing the risk of potential misrepresentation.

### Assessing performance and skills

A reference check is an opportunity for employers to gain insights into a candidate's performance and skills from the perspective of someone who has worked closely with them. Employers seek to answer questions such as: Was the candidate a top performer? Did they possess the essential skills required for the role? Did they work well in a team? By examining past performance, employers can make better-informed decisions regarding the candidate's suitability for the role.

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### Understanding character and work ethic

While skills and qualifications are essential, character and work ethic can make or break a candidate's success within an organization. Reference checks provide an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the candidate's personality, values, and work ethic. Employers want to know if the candidate is reliable, adaptable, and has a positive attitude. Understanding these traits helps determine if the candidate will be a good cultural fit and contribute positively to the workplace.

## Conducting a reference check

Now that we understand the significance of reference checks, let's explore how they are conducted. While the process may vary slightly from one organization to another, the fundamental steps remain consistent.

### Requesting references

Once the initial screening process is complete and a potential candidate has been identified, employers typically request a list of references. These references are usually professional connections such as previous supervisors, colleagues, or mentors who can provide valuable insights into the candidate's performance.

### Contacting references

After receiving the reference list, employers contact the references to request a reference check. This is often done via phone or email, and the preferred method may vary depending on the reference's availability and convenience. Employers should provide a brief introduction, explain the purpose of the call or email, and the expected timeframe for completion.

### Prepare questions

To gather the most valuable information, employers should develop a set of thoughtful and targeted questions. These questions should focus on the candidate's skills, work ethic, and character traits relevant to the role. For example, questions about teamwork, problem-solving abilities, and reliability can provide valuable insights into a candidate's suitability for the position.

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### Conducting the reference check

During the reference check, it's essential to establish rapport with the reference and create a comfortable environment for open and honest communication. Employers should actively listen, take notes, and ask follow-up questions to gain a comprehensive understanding. While remaining professional, a conversational tone can help create a relaxed atmosphere and encourage the reference to provide valuable insights.

### Documenting the feedback

After the reference check is complete, employers should document the feedback received. It is crucial to maintain accurate records of the reference checks as they serve as valuable evidence in case of any discrepancies or legal concerns. Detailed notes about the conversation, including both positive and negative feedback, can aid in the decision-making process.

## Real-life examples

To better illustrate the significance of reference checks, let's explore a couple of real-life examples:

### Example 1: Verifying qualifications

Imagine an employer reviewing a candidate's resume and finding that they claim to have a specific certification necessary for the position. To ensure the accuracy of this claim, the employer reaches out to the candidate's previous employer, who confirms that the candidate indeed possesses the mentioned certification. This reference check provides peace of mind to the employer, knowing they can trust the candidate's qualifications.

### Example 2: Assessing character and work ethic

In another scenario, an employer is considering hiring a candidate for a customer service role where empathy and problem-solving skills are paramount. The reference check reveals that the candidate consistently went above and beyond to assist customers in their previous role. The reference describes their exceptional work ethic, positive attitude, and ability to defuse challenging situations. Armed with this information, the employer feels confident in their decision to hire the candidate.

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## In conclusion

Reference checks are an essential part of the hiring process, enabling employers to verify information, assess performance and skills, and understand character and work ethic. By conducting structured and focused reference checks, employers can make informed decisions and minimize potential risks. So, the next time you find yourself in a hiring position, remember the power of a reference check and the valuable insights it can provide.

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