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The Importance of Reference Checks: Are They Necessary?

Updated: Jul 26, 2019

If you work in HR, or you’ve ever hired for your company, you’ll probably be familiar with reference checks.

Simply put, reference checks are checks that companies carry out whilst they’re interviewing candidates for a job position. In a reference check, you’d typically contact a job applicant’s previous employers, schools, and other organisations they’re affiliated to, in order to get qualitative feedback on candidates.

While reference checks have been an important part of the hiring process for decades, companies are now increasingly choosing to skip reference checks to shorten the hiring process.

Now, we get that reference checking is a tedious and time-consuming process. First and foremost, referees are often busy folks, and this makes them tough to reach. Also, consider the fact that a candidate’s referees might be in different timezones and the time and effort that goes into collating feedback from different referees manually.

That said, the truth is that reference checking is a crucial part of hiring -- and companies should not, under any circumstances, nix their reference checking altogether. In this blog post, we walk you through exactly why reference checking is so important and discuss a vastly superior way of reference checking (one that requires minimum time and effort on your part). Read on to find out more!

Why you should never skip reference checks

According to a recent report from Udemy, 26% of job applicants under 40 admit to lying on their resumes or CVs. 

Here are some reasons why you should always conduct reference checks on your potential candidates:

1. Make sure your candidate isn’t falsifying information

Now, you’d be surprised at how many people will outrightly falsify the information on their resumes. For instance, some folks might make up jobs to cover up periods of inactivity, and you’d never be able to tell unless you take the time and effort to conduct a reference check.

2. Make sure your candidate is as experienced as they say they are

Making up fake jobs aside, it’s also common for job applicants to lie about their experience and skill sets. For example, candidates may exaggerate the results of a project they worked on at their previous company, or lie about their proficiency in a certain area.

You don’t want to hire someone who claims that they’re familiar with Salesforce, HubSpot, or whatever CRM your company is using, only to find out that they have no idea how to work the CRM. So make reference checking a priority!  

3. Make sure your candidate is a good fit, culture-wise

Other than allowing you to verify your candidate’s job history, experience, and skill sets, reference checking also helps you gain insights into your candidate’s personality.

Think about it: in an interview, everyone will tell you that they take initiative and that they’re a team player. To find out if this is really the case, you’ll have to talk to your candidate’s past employers and other references.

5 questions to ask during reference checks

Conducting a reference check to learn more about your job applicant?

Other than going through the standard questions about your applicant’s strengths and weaknesses, be sure to ask these five questions as well:

  1. Why did the candidate leave the job?

  2. How would you rate the candidate on {skill}?

  3. How does the candidate react to stressful situations?

  4. What kind of management style does the candidate respond well to?

  5. If you had the opportunity to, would you re-hire the candidate?

Why did the candidate leave the job?

When asked this question, many candidates give generic answers about wanting to challenge themselves or expand their horizons. It’s up to you to make sure your candidate isn’t hiding anything or being less than honest here.

How would you rate the candidate on {skill}?

So you’ve already interviewed your candidate, and you have an idea of what (and how much) they’ll contribute to your company. If you want to verify that a candidate is skilled in certain areas, though a good way is to ask their ex-employers. This provides you with an external view and perspective on your candidate.

How does the candidate react to stressful situations?

The last thing you’d want to do is to hire someone who’s charismatic and interviews well, but completely loses it under pressure. Don’t just assume that your candidate is always as calm and amiable as they are when you meet them for the first time.

What kind of management style does the candidate respond well to?

Some employees prefer to work in more environments where their managers are directive and authoritative; others might appreciate managers who are more participative and encourage everyone to contribute to decision-making.

It’s important to understand which style your candidate performs the best under so that you can determine if they fit well in your company and existing team.

If you had the opportunity to, would you re-hire the candidate?

This is perhaps the most telling question of them all — if an ex-employer has been saying good things about a candidate, but falters when asked if they’d re-hire that candidate, then this is a sign that you’re not getting the full picture. Try and dig deeper, and ask to speak to alternate references if necessary.

The easiest way to carry out a reference check

Conducting reference checks manually is tedious and time-consuming — there’s no arguing with that. The good news? robin helps HR managers and businesses automate and streamline the reference checking process. 

robin is a smart reference checking service that helps companies gather valuable insights about their candidates without any hassle. As a hiring manager, you can send referees customised questions for the role and robin automatically collates the feedback and provides you insights on your candidate. 

Want to experience the magic of robin for yourself? Click here to get a free reference check for your company.

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