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Don’t forget to reference check

Employers are being warned not to underestimate the importance of checking a potential employee’s references during the recruitment process, with many failing to find out when candidates misrepresent themselves.

According to Kelly Services General Manager Penny O’Reilly, reference checking is a vital step in the recruitment process, but employers often don’t consider it as important as other stages.

“It is crucial that employers verify the information presented on a candidates resume is factual and reference checking is a great way to assess a person’s work ethic, reliability and personality traits.”

“Effective reference checking is an art. Unfortunately it’s an art that many hiring managers cannot master, so it is regularly overlooked. The challenge is to get the information you need without overstepping the legal boundaries.”

Thanks to the rise of social media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook, hiring managers have become increasingly reluctant to pick up the phone and make personalized reference check calls. According to O’Reilly, “social media should not be used as a substitute to personal conversations with a candidate’s previous manager.”

Here’s four tips for conducting a reference check:

1. Only deal with direct managers. When conducting a reference check you have to clearly establish the working relationship between the candidate and the referee. Previous managers and superiors are more likely to answer questions about working habits and capabilities rather than peers who may be friends with that employee.

2. Ask specific questions relating to the skills required for the job. There are four key checks that employers need to focus on when conducting a reference check:

  • Performance check. Ask questions like, ‘can you give me an example of the candidate performing x task’?
  • Behavioural and reliability check. Ask questions like, ‘can you give me an example of how diligent and reliable the candidate was’?
  • Motivational check. Ask questions like, ‘can you give me examples of ways the candidate was looking for new ways to learn and grow’?
  • Technical skills check. This gets into the nitty gritty of the job at hand. Make sure you ask questions that will identify that the candidate knows and has certain skills. Where possible, ask for examples to back it up.

3. Avoid offensive questions that could be considered discriminatory. These include questions relating to marital status, physical appearance, sexual preference, family/child care arrangements, or health, unless you can demonstrate that they are an inherent requirement of the position. Any comments or criticisms relating to an applicant’s disability, gender, race, or other potential grounds for discrimination are not relevant and should be disregarded.

4. Don’t ask closed questions. Don’t ask questions where a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer is provided. All answers should follow with a reason why. Employers need to pull the strings further to get more usable and useful information. Listing achievements and different impressions must be followed with a ‘why’.

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Lorna Brett

Lorna Brett

Lorna was Dynamic Business’ Social Web Editor in 2011/12. She’s a social media obsessed journalist, who has a passion for small business. Outside the 9 to 5, you’re likely to find her trawling the web for online bargains, perfecting her amateur photography skills or enjoying one too many cappucinos. You can follow her on <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/dynamicbusiness">Twitter @DynamicBusiness</a>

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