Terry Thompson, Surrey, BC, CYBF Mentor, tesh@shaw.ca

Managing Corporate Culture article series

In the previous article I discussed the key objectives of reference checking and how to prepare for each reference check. This article will provide more depth regarding:

  1. Approaching each reference check as an interview of the person providing the reference information.
  2. Whenever possible, performing your reference check face-to-face with the person giving the reference.
  3. Finding at least one and preferably two people, who the candidate has not listed as a reference (you should have discovered these people during the interview process).
  4. Asking the one question you should always end an interview with.

Interviewing the person giving the reference information

This objective does not mean that you are literally interviewing the person giving the reference however, you should at least be taking the approach of trying to determine what type of person s/he is, the nature of their relationship with your candidate, and why they make a credible reference. Accordingly, some of your questions should be designed to provide this information to you. You want to feel comfortable that a reference from this person is worth something.

Face-to-face reference checks

I have found many times that a face-to-face meeting with the person giving the reference is far more productive than over-the-phone for the following reasons:

  1. You will tend to prepare more thoroughly for this type of reference checking.
  2. The person giving the reference will, in almost every case, be much more forthcoming when meeting with you in person than over-the-phone. I have had numerous instances where a reference told me something about the candidate that I believe they would never have said over-the-phone.
  3. You are better able to establish a relationship with the person giving the reference, which will allow you to better judge their credibility and the worthiness of their information.
  4. In many cases, you are able to see the office that your candidate worked in and obtain at least a first impression as to the environment they came from.

Find at least one to two references who are not listed by the candidate

This will give you a well-rounded perspective on your candidate and allows for a cross-check of the information provided by the candidate-recommended references.

The one question you should always ask

I always finished a reference check by asking the reference if there is anything that I may have missed asking, that they feel is important to determining the candidate’s fit with the position and my company.

In asking this question I would also advise the reference that, given that they obviously had a positive relationship with the candidate (where appropriate), and cared about where s/he next worked,  it was in the candidate’s best interest to be as forthcoming as possible about anything else that they felt would be relevant.

A bad fit would not help the candidate, as it would soon come to light and the candidate would be let go. I found this simple question, particularly in a face-to-face meeting, to be very effective.

Reference checking is just as important as the interview(s) of the candidate.  Take it just as seriously and take the time to do a good job of it.

The next article will discuss the use of personality profiling in the screening process.

Should you have any questions or feedback regarding the content of this article, please email Terry Thompson at tesh@shaw.ca ©

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