Reference Checks

It’s important to keep in mind that the object of the reference-checking exercise is to make sure the candidate is right for the job and that the job is right for the candidate. Even if the candidate is outstanding but the job isn’t really right for him or her – for whatever reason – it’s far better to hear it from references than to hire someone for a job at which he or she will eventually fail. Failing is a lose-lose situation for both the employer and the candidate. There is no positive outcome with a job mismatch. Additionally, being spared a job mismatch keeps the candidate’s career on track and moving forward, which benefits both parties. Avoiding a job mismatch for the employer also avoids all costs associated with replacing someone and going through the entire job search exercise again!

Two obvious, but often overlooked, things a prospective employer should advise candidates for employment to do are:

  • Have them tell their references that they have absolute permission to talk with prospective employers who call.
  • Tell candidates to ask their references if they will talk to a prospective employer directly if they’re called. If, for any reason, a reference starts to hedge or flat-out refuses to talk to a prospective employer, advise the candidates to pick references who will talk. Although it’s hard to imagine that a friend and coworker would agree to serve as a reference and then refuse to talk to a prospective employer, it can happen. And, if it does happen, it’s usually because the job seeker didn’t make absolutely sure that their references would talk to prospective employers, or their agents, in the first place!