The Value of Quality Reference Checking

By Russell Drake


As Employment Relations Consultants supporting Employers in a resolving employment relationship problems we are often engaged to work in situations that may have been largely avoidable had the business implemented sound human resource practices.

This is most critical at the time of making the ‘hiring’ decision, for many of the performance management or termination processes that we become involved in, are a direct result of poor initial selection decisions or processes.

One of the most common facts to emerge in these situations is that a formal reference check was either not completed or the Employee’s performance did not reflect the report given by the referee.

Quality reference checking therefore goes a long way to avoid unnecessary pain at a later date.

As experienced Recruitment Service Providers some of the key steps we use when undertaking quality reference checks are:

  1. Determine who the referees are to be; you do not have to be restricted to the referees presented by the candidate. From the candidate interview determine who the best people to speak to are and then make obtaining a reference from these people a condition of progressing the candidate through the remainder of the recruitment process. 
  2. Use key information from the candidate interview to determine the reference questions; within the candidate interview establish key information that can then be cross-checked with the referee. Do not use a ‘one-size-fits-all’ reference questionnaire as this adds little value. 
  3. Interview the Referee; the discussion with the referee should have the same importance as the interview with the candidate so it must be more than a simple discussion around a number of standard questions, allow sufficient time to give justice to this process. 
  4. Does the Referee confirm the candidate’s statements; use specific examples provided by the candidate to question the referee and determine if the referee’s version of events is the same as that described by the candidate. 
  5. Key Question; have one key question to test the credibility of the candidate, i.e. what was the biggest problem encountered with the employee and how did they go about resolving this? (this will often confirm if there were any previous disputes or grievances)

The completion of a quality reference check will enable you to confirm if the person you have interviewed operates within the business environment in the same manner that they have described to you when questioned. Where an Employer either fails to complete reference checks or does not follow a structured approach to gaining information from the referee the cost to remove the underperforming or unsuitable Employee at a later date may become significant.

If you require any information or assistance in your recruitment or reference checking process please feel free to contact us directly to learn more about our Client Recruitment Services.

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