Reference Checks: Reveal a Candidate’s True Colors Based on What You Don’t Hear

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Past performance predicts future results, the saying goes, and while this isn’t always true, past performance is one of the most important pieces of information to have when you’re hiring someone. This is why references are so crucial. They give you insight into how a candidate performed in their past jobs, and can help you judge if they’ll do a good job in your office.

Listen carefully.

This may seem obvious, but it’s worth repeating. Reference checks are one of the final steps in the hiring process, so it can be tempting to rush through them. Keep in mind that when you’re talking to a past employer or colleague, you’re not just looking for red flags. You also need to watch out for questions that are answered with a pause, a stutter, or evasion, because these say a great deal about your candidate. Keep an eye out for a reference that seems too enthusiastic about your candidate’s overall qualifications as well.

Verify information.

Before getting in touch with the reference, make a list of what you know about a candidate so far, from basic things like employment dates and skills to more complicated data like why they left their last position. Check off the things that you can verify; circle the things that have inconsistencies and look into them further.

Ask open-ended questions.

Asking a series of yes or no questions isn’t going to help you make your final hiring decision. Your questions need to be open-ended while also being specific enough to draw out an answer that is of use to you. For example, “Is Alex a good employee?” is not a great question. “What kind of employee is Alex?” is a better one. “How does Alex deal with making mistakes?” is ideal for finding out the most about your candidate.

Still nervous about your ability to pick up on the subtleties of a reference check conversation? Is it too much pressure deciding whether or not to hire someone? Call Burnett’s Staffing today and let one of our recruiting specialists take care of it for you!

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