The hiring process is almost done. You’ve posted your job, reviewed resumes, and conducted interviews. By this point, you’ve narrowed the applicant pool down to a strong and select few. How do you decide who is the right job candidate to hire? Reference checks.

1. Save references for last

Reference checks are time-consuming for the employer and those giving the references. Save everyone time by reserving this step for last.

2. Focus on concerns

Before you meet with the reference, write down your concerns from reviewing resumes and conducting interviews. Ask questions that focus on and address these concerns.

3. Say thank you

Before diving into questions, recognize that the person giving the reference is doing you a favor. Show you’re appreciative and start the discussion by expressing your thanks. This will help you establish a good vibe, which will get you better information from the reference.

4. Start slow

Ask a few easy questions to get the reference warmed up and to create a comfortable environment. As mentioned above, establishing a nice vibe leads to more honest and complete answers.

5. Validate

Use the reference check as a means to validate the key pieces of information provided by the job candidate. Focus on claims that can’t be proven on paper. If candidates claim to be collaborative, organized, or efficient, validate these points with references. Ask the same question to multiple references in order to check for consistency.

6. Ask good questions

Good questions are generally open-ended and provide the space for the reference to share useful information. Avoid yes or no questions and “leading the witness.” For example, if you’re hiring a sales associate, you shouldn’t ask, “The job candidate is good at sales, right?” Instead ask, “Tell me about the time when the job candidate performed well in a sales role.”

7. Be persistent

This means asking lots of follow-up questions. References usually start extremely positive. Often times you’ll learn the most interesting information from the follow-up questions.

8. Don’t forget the supervisor

Conducting multiple reference checks is the right call. Learning about the job candidate from diverse perspectives is always helpful. But, as a hiring manager, don’t forget that the most important reference comes from a past supervisor.

9. Keep it recent

Ask for references who have interacted with the job candidate in the last one to five years. The more recent, the better.

10. Remember the magic number

3 is the magic number. Do fewer reference checks and you won’t get enough opinions about the job candidate. Do more reference checks and you’ll waste valuable time.

11. Do it yourself

Don’t ask others to do the reference check. As the hiring manager, make sure you are the one asking the questions and hearing the answers directly.

 
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