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Should I Do Reference Checks?

Posted by Eric Daniel on Sep 28 2016

Common customer question #14: Should I conduct reference checks on employees? Speaking to references is a great way to get more information about applicants and to verify the information they’ve provided to you. As a best practice, you should get an applicant’s formal written consent to check their references, but if they’ve provided a reference list with names and contact methods for this specific purpose, additional authorization is likely not needed. 

When speaking with references, open-ended questions are often the most helpful—if they are willing and able to answer them. Asking whether the applicant would be a good fit for the role and what skills the applicant has that would make them well-suited to it is a great start. Also asking about any times the applicant needed to be coached and how they responded to feedback has proven to be effective.

If a reference doesn’t seem willing or able to answer open-ended questions, you can ask them to confirm employment information that the candidate has already provided (e.g., dates of employment, reason for leaving). In the process, the reference may open up about the applicant’s strengths and weaknesses related to their previous position or about other job-related details. If they don’t, then ask whether they’d recommend the applicant for your position. Even a simple yes or no answer will speak volumes.

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As HR professionals, we are most interested in the intersection of the HR practice, technology and business results in today’s organizations. We have a strong interest in areas like recruiting, payroll, benefits, and ACA management, and the technology that manages these areas of interest.  We also keep an eye towards the thousand other areas that impact HR Generalists at every level (VP, Director, Manager, etc.). This Blog does just that.

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