Reference Checks

One of the common problems employers face when checking someone’s references is trying to determine the reliability of the comments made.  There are, however, two sides to this particular coin.  On the one side is the person seeking employment; on the other, the employer doing the hiring.  It’s only natural to expect job seekers to provide references they believe will only say good things about them.  That expectation leads many employers to think that checking the references provided by the candidate is just a waste of time.  This is precisely the reason why the employer should specify the type of references required of the candidate for employment.

There are several things an employer can do to increase the likelihood of receiving honest answers to job performance-related questions:

  • Always ask the job seeker to provide a resume that contains a complete work history, including dates of employment for every job held.
  • Ask the candidate to provide the names of the people to whom he directly reported.  This should be done regardless of whether it was the chair of the church board, the school principal, or a production line supervisor.
  • Employers should also require candidates for employment to fill out a formal job application that asks for the same information.  One way or the other, then, whether it’s on the resume or the job application, even if you have to ask for the information during the initial interview, you’ll get a description of the tasks for which the candidate was responsible at each position held.  And you’ll be able to do a little cross-checking to make sure the information on the resume and the job application match, especially if at least one former supervisor was listed as a reference!

If the list of references doesn’t include at least one person to whom the candidate reported, a red flag should go up in the prospective employer’s mind.  Some candidates will contend, legitimately, that they didn’t list a previous supervisor because the two of them didn’t get along well.  That’s understandable, but if the candidate claims he’s never gotten along well with any supervisor ever, that should be an even bigger red flag!

In Part 2 of this blog we’ll talk about interviewing techniques to determine the reliability of references.