Professional references offer valuable insight into the character and quality of a job candidate. They also verify whether the potential employee is honest, works well with others, and maintains professional relationships. This article explains how to check a professional reference for a new candidate.
Reference Checking Etiquette
Require the candidate to provide you with a minimum of three (3) professional references. Professional means the candidate worked directly with each reference. Request full contact information for each reference, including:
- Relationship to candidate
- Position and company
- Phone number
- Email Address
Some companies also ask for a mailing address. You probably won’t need that since you likely don’t want to slow the process down by using snail mail.
When you get in touch with a reference, always explain who you are, why you are calling, what your company does, and what responsibilities the job opening includes.
Never make a job offer contingent on the results of a reference check. If you end up rejecting the candidate, you want to avoid liability.
Questions to Ask
Your main goals here are:
- To verify the professional relationship
- Evaluate past performance
Ask open-ended questions that explore the candidate’s skills, work ethic, and attitude towards others. If the reference was a former employer, ask if he or she would hire the candidate again. If the reference was a former co-worker, ask if he or she would ever work with the candidate again.
I put together a couple of questions you can use when checking professional references. You can download them for free here.
When you complete your reference checks, determine whether the candidate truly is a good fit for both the position and the company. If you make an offer, file all notes from your conversations in the employee’s personnel file.