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Reference Checks

It used to be employers routinely would check references without consent from the applicant. It wasn’t that long ago and there were many reasons for this. For example, if a reference check came back negative, the employer would not have to explain their decision to the applicant.  

However, this practice is no longer allowed. Applicants must now sign a release which states they allow the employer to check their references. Typically this is part of the application and it depends heavily on the wording.

What to Do Before You Check References Without Consent

Before you check references without consent, review the wording of your release. If your release statement only states you check references listed on an application or resume, consider a revision. This revision should grant your company more opportunities to look into applicants.

A broader statement might include permission to check references as well as question anyone who might be familiar with the candidate’s job performance. This opens up your reference check calls.

For example, if an applicant gives the name of a colleague or someone who was not a direct supervisor, it makes sense to ask who the direct supervisor was as part of your references check. If you are able to speak to that supervisor, you did directly check references without consent, and you are still covered under your broader, revised release statement.

What to Do While You Check References

While you check references, ask plenty of open-ended questions. This prods the reference to provide an honest answer without knowing what specific information you seek.

For example, if you ask the question, “Was Jane’s work always submitted on time?” The reference knows you are looking for them to tell you “yes.” However, if you ask “How were Jane’s project management skills?” The reference is likely to discuss time management and punctuality without disclosing your true aim.

Open-ended questions also help if a reference has been “coached” by the applicant. A good applicant informs a reference she is applying for a job. However, some applicants go a step further and tell the reference what they want him or her to say. This is not particularly helpful to an employer, so asking open-ended questions is a good way around this.

Finally, while you speak with a reference, if you realize the person does not have a thorough understanding of the applicant’s work, ask who was the applicant’s direct supervisor.

If you have the proper release in your company’s application, you then have permission to talk to another employee at this company. A solid reference from an applicant’s former supervisor is significantly more helpful than simply hearing from an applicant’s best friend at work.

What Should Employers Do After Checking References?

Be sure to write down important information learned about an applicant immediately following any reference check. If any information is of concern, inform the members of your search committee right away.

Occasionally a reference check elicits more questions for your applicant. At this point, return to your applicant with requests for more information or explanation. It’s best to start a working relationship with as much trust as possible. Remember, they’re considering you as much as you’re considering them. Avoid the perception of distrust and instead embrace comprehensiveness.

Finally, your due diligence prior to hiring is always better than discovering a mistake after hiring has taken place!

Unsure if Your Process Allows You Check References Without Consent? Consult with Barada Associates to Verify

Whether you need assistance with your background checks or would like to verify your process allows you to check references without consent, Barada Associates is here to help! We are the premier provider or employment screening and reference reports.

Founded in 1979, we have always been on the cutting edge with our practices and technology. Trust this important work to our four decades of experience. Call Barada today and put us to work for you!