Reference Checks

One of the worst mistakes a hiring committee makes is forgoing background checks to speed up the hiring process. It’s normal to think about skipping the background check, especially if your company runs “lean” and the current team is struggling with the added workload or if the candidate was referred by an employee or board member. No matter the stresses, don’t skip this step.

Careful checks now could save you time, money and headaches later. Whether you’re hiring an entry-level position, a manager role or an executive, look at background checks as more of an investment than an expense. In our most recent blog, the professionals at Barada Associates discuss how to conduct background checks.

Why Should Companies Check References

A reference check needs to be an essential part of the hiring process at all levels of your company. Often hiring managers conduct criminal history checks, social media checks, and drug testing but feel uncomfortable about calls to a candidate’s references.

Never feel uncomfortable about calling a reference! The candidate gave you these references with the expectation of a call. You also are able to see a different side of the candidate by talking to those who better know him or her.

For example, there was a company prepared to hire an executive. This individual provided an outstanding interview with the hiring managers and was expected to energize the team and take them to the next level. As part of his executive background checks, the hiring committee contacted three references.

All three references provided the same information; this individual was coasting into retirement looking for one last lucrative position. Unfortunately, he provided the exact opposite impression to the hiring committee.

This story illustrates the reason to check references with each candidate. Imagine all the headaches these three simple calls prevented for this company!

How Should References Be Checked?

Checking a job candidate’s references should always be a part of the hiring process. There are several ways to check references, including by mail, email, telephone and in person. Barada Associates takes a look at which method is best.

Mail or email

Many employers still rely on one of the most archaic forms of reference checking: the mailed or emailed questionnaire. Why is it archaic? Much like a letter of recommendation, it is only a one-way communication. How, for instance, does the prospective employer ask a follow-up question based on an answer on a piece of paper?

Suppose one of the questions is, “How would you rate the overall performance of the candidate?” Now, suppose the written response is, “No one performed like he did.” What do you suppose that response really means? How could anyone possibly divine the true meaning of a response like that? This is exactly why sending out a questionnaire is a waste of time. It’s not even possible to verify who actually provided the information or filled out the questionnaire.

In person

Not much space needs to be devoted to discussing the value of going to see references. If money and time were not objects, sitting down with references would be a very nice way of going about it. As a practical matter, however, most of the time going to see references really isn’t a viable option.


The best choice to learn about a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses, therefore, is actually calling references and having a discussion with them about the candidate’s past job performance. A conversation via telephone is, by definition, a two-way communication. If a response isn’t clear, the prospective employer can always ask for clarification or for more information.

Of equal importance, the prospective employer can listen for things like tone of voice, inflection, nuance of meaning, and hesitations – all of which can prompt important follow-up questions. That’s why conducting reference checks by phone is the best and most economical way to collect useful job performance information about job seekers. Reference check questions are always best to answer over the phone.

Rely on Barada Associates for Checking References

Barada Associates has been in the business of reference checking and employment screening for more than 40 years. Our experience means we know what to look for and how to read certain “tells” of questionable credentials.

Our commitment to the industry means we stay on top of trends. So trust the experts in background checks. Call Barada Associates today!