Beat the hiring odds with these 5 steps to insightful reference checks

Photo by Hannah Wei

How to get the most out of reference checks

Reference-check continuously

As soon as you begin to seriously evaluate a candidate, you should start reaching out to mutual contacts and validate everything you read and hear.

Be respectful of people’s time

People are busy, and they’re providing you with the reference as a favour.

Always go beyond the list

A job applicant can have a stellar resume, but if their former colleagues mention issues of trust, will you still consider them the same?

Get an even mix of references

To get a fuller, less biased picture of the candidate, aim to get feedback from all of their recent workplaces, and a variety of contact types:

  • Peers can give you feedback on how well the candidate fit the company culture and gelled with the team. Avoid talking to friends and close colleagues though, as they’re unlikely to be as impartial.
  • Managers will have insight into how well the candidate handles feedback, their work ethics, and skill.
  • Direct reports are often more biased, but they can share their first-hand experience with the candidate’s mentorship and leadership skills.
  • Replacement hires who took over the candidate’s role are more likely to speak out and can give you a feel of the state in which the candidate left their previous team.

Ask for weaknesses indirectly

Most people you’ll talk to will be positively biased. They’ll be less direct when describing the candidate in a bad light, and asking for weaknesses can put them on a defensive.

What kinds of people does the referenced need around him/her to be successful?

Asking for the right mix of people to complement the candidate’s skill allows you to find out the same information, without discussing unfavourable traits head-on.

What are you waiting for?

You now understand the importance of reference checks and have all the tools to get an accurate picture of your candidate. It’s time to get out and start reaching out!



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Philip Seifi

Philip Seifi

Founder | Cross-pollinating between industries and cultures. | Nomad entrepreneur 🌎 designer 🌸 hacker 💻 |