Reference Checks

In Part 1 of this little series on “Misconceptions,” the distinction was made between a policy and a law. The next topic is what you, as a prospective employer, can do to circumvent the “policy-followers” within an organization who prevent you from talking to references within the organization who know the candidate for employment.

The key is to remember that the employee selection process has a certain interactive quality about it. It’s not just a matter of taking a resume or job application and doing all the work yourself while the job seeker sits patiently by the phone waiting to be offered a job. People seeking employment have a responsibility to facilitate the process of being hired, also. The responsibility of accessing references and getting the information you want (and need to make an informed hiring decision) rests squarely on the shoulders of the job seeker. It’s up to the candidate, in other words, to give you names of appropriate references who have worked with the candidate.

Frankly, I recommend bypassing the HR Department altogether. Even if the company has a stringently enforced policy about only disclosing the bare minimum, put the burden on the candidate to find people who will talk. One of the best ways to do that is to suggest that the candidate recruit people who have retired from the company or have taken other jobs to serve as references. They will be able to, at the very least, confirm employment dates and job titles. And in all likelihood, they will be great references.

Next, we’ll go beyond the myth that there are universal rules that apply to all employees. What about the myths surrounding assessing past job performance?