A top priority of any HR professional or manager should be building strong and trusting professional, human relationships, and maintaining and nurturing those relationships. Part of that priority is to ensure that the “Nuts and Bolts” of HR are both compliant and meet the needs of the organization. As an ongoing part of our goal to assist organizations with their HR needs, HRCentral will be producing, in addition to our other weekly blog posts, a “Nuts-and-Bolts” series of blog posts in which we will cover various items regarding compliance and business-related topics essential to every organization.

Nut-and-Bolts: Reference Checks: The What, Where, and Why

Employer’s often wonder if reference checks are worthwhile or simply a waste of time. What’s the point in asking the same questions again and again that are simply reiterating the information on a resume? For some hiring managers, this may be the case. But, when done correctly and for the right reasons, a reference check can prove to be an invaluable resource to assist in fitting the right person to the right job.

There are a number of purposes employers conduct reference checks. Employers typically want a description of past duties and experiences, a view into strengths and weaknesses, and a confirmation of titles and dates of employment. These are a few of the basic, essential reasons for conducting a reference check.

Another purpose is validating what the candidate has told you during their interview. If the information you obtain from a reference proves that the applicant embellished or misled you in anyway, all other questions are irrelevant and you should simply not hire that applicant.

If you receive the validation that you are seeking regarding the applicant’s knowledge, skills, and abilities, then additional questions are appropriate. Supplemental questions can serve the purpose of seeing if the individual in question will be a good fit for the organization with regards to their work behaviors and professional characteristics.

A few things to keep in mind when conducting your reference check include: be consistent and avoid any questions that fall under EEO discriminatory practice areas; ask job-related questions about the applicant’s knowledge, skills, and abilities that are related to the position in question; and, ask questions designed to detail observations about the applicant’s work behaviors.

Many organizations have policies that prevent them from providing detailed information, either pro or con, so this withholding of information should not be viewed as a negative mark against the applicant. If this is the case, try rephrasing your questions to encourage simple “yes” or “no” answers that are a verification of the information that you have already been provided.

Follow us for next week’s “Nuts-and-Bolts” article as we discuss more in detail what questions are, and are not, acceptable to ask during a reference check.