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Do you really know how to reference check?

Do you really understand the purpose of a reference check? I mean really?

The reason you are completing a reference check is to confirm the information you already have.

That’s it.

What a reference check is not:

A chance to convince you you’re making the right decision. Let’s face it, if you need convincing at this stage, perhaps it’s an indication of some internal doubts you may have about that candidate. Be confident in your decision before you make that reference call.

Common misconceptions about reference checking

There’s a belief that reference checking is nothing more than a tick-the-box exercise. Some recruiters consider it a waste of time as you can’t really do anything more than confirm titles and timelines. It’s a process so wrapped up in compliance and legal issues it can feel like a dodgy Christmas present from the aunt you don’t really like.

Or perhaps you’re still living in the past and think it’s a great excuse for a revealing chat. In which case you need to find more interesting things to chat about. It is no longer a way you can find out what somebody else thinks about a candidate. Opinion has no place in modern-day, compliant reference checking- more on this later.

Reference checking has evolved into a genuine process that has real value when done correctly and can be costly if done poorly.

Why do you need to reference check?

If reference checking is only confirming the things you already know- why is it so important?

Well, here are some straight up facts:


  • The cost of hiring the wrong person could be up to 30% of that employee’s salary- This Forbes article- The True Cost of a Bad Hire goes into more detail…



  • 11% of job applicants misrepresent why they left a former employer as reported by cFirst


Yikes… They’re some pretty convincing figures.

With these facts in mind, it’s important you take all the steps you can to make sure you’re making the right hiring decision for your organisation

How to carry out an informative and compliant reference check

So, now you understand exactly what a reference check is AND you know why you should do one. Let’s talk about how you can complete a reference check that is effective and compliant.

Establish your aim

The candidate has given you a lot of information by the reference checking stage through the following channels

  • CV or resume
  • Cover letter
  • Interview(s)

Assess the information you have and think about the points you would like to clarify– and why?

Prepare your questions

Don’t head into this call without listing out the questions you want to ask the referee. To give you an idea of the types of questions you should be asking stick to these general examples and you can’t go wrong.

Example questions

Can you confirm they worked on this project or that account?
What level of success did they have with that project?
Can you confirm they have good leadership and management skills?
Can you confirm can they work well under pressure?

Keep it objective

As stated earlier, opinions can be dangerous when reference checking. You need to make sure all your questions are phrased in the most objective way possible. You want to build a picture of what it might be like to work with this person.

Doing this will help you carry out an effective and compliant reference check.

Of course, there’s more to it than that…

Those simple steps above: establishing your aim, preparing your questions and keeping it objective are great places to start. In fact, you can start carrying out better reference checks right away.

But the best recruiters go a step further…

SocialTalent has a whole training mission dedicated to reference checking. From best practice questions to the specific country and state laws, you need to be aware of.

For more information on Reference Checking Essentials contact a member of the SocialTalent team today 

Talk to The SocialTalent Team Today

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