Reference Checks

Many employers say they don’t bother checking references because references won’t talk about previous employees, making the attempt a waste of time.  That’s probably true if the employer hasn’t taken the trouble to ask the job seeker himself to provide the names of appropriate references, as I’ve been discussing in the last couple of blogs.

Here’s the logic: If the prospective employer puts the burden on the job seeker to provide the names of references, doesn’t it make sense that the job seeker will ask the people he wants to list as references if they’ll do it?  Of course, he will!  And doesn’t it also make sense that people who agree to be references will also agree to talk to a prospective employer, or its agents, when called?  Ninety-nine percent of the time, therefore, when the call does come, the reference knows what it’s about and will talk to whoever is calling, once the caller is properly identified.  For that remaining 1 percent who have agreed to be references but still won’t talk, we put the burden right back on the job seeker to re-contact that reference and tell him it’s okay to talk to us when we call; but, if that can’t be done, the responsibility is still on the job seeker to find another appropriate person who will talk to us!

Now, here’s why checking references is so important – especially for managerial positions and up.  What does a background check reveal about a candidate for employment?  It will tell a prospective employer if the candidate has been honest about the details of his resume.  It will disclose whether or not the candidate has ever been convicted of a crime.  But that’s about it.  Will a background check reveal what the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses were on the job?  No.  Will a background check reveal how well the candidate got along with fellow employees?  No.  Will a background check disclose what the candidate needs to do to continue to advance his career?  No.  A good reference report will provide insight into all those areas – and more.  That’s why a reference check is invaluable when it comes to making the most informed hiring decision possible.  It’s simply not the same as just doing a background check.