7 Ways to Help Your Candidates Provide Winning Reference Checks
Tip #1: Make sure your candidate understands the reference process.
Share some insight into the reference process with your candidate. How important are references in their overall hiring process? How many references are required? How will references be contacted – via phone or online process? When will they be required? How quickly will feedback be needed? Help your candidate understand expectations.
Tip #2: Make sure candidates choose the right references.
Okay. You know mothers, spouses, and BFFs are out. Hopefully, so does your candidate. Still, there’s more to reference selection than simply any “manager, colleague, or direct report.” Because you understand what the hiring manager is really looking for, you can counsel your candidate on identifying which references will likely be able to speak to job-specific capabilities.
Tip #3: Identify any internal references.
Ask candidates about any connections they may within the hiring organization. If it’s someone who can speak to a candidate’s abilities, it’s worth asking for a reference.
Tip #4: Make sure candidates prepare their references.
For hiring managers, nothing says “I don’t really care about this job” than reaching a reference who has no idea why they’re calling. Make sure your candidates contact their references prior to submitting their names to a hiring manager. At the very least, candidates should seek permission from their references before handing out their contact information. Better yet, well-prepared candidates will tell their references about the position they’re applying for and ask them if they can provide positive and relevant information. Candidates should never assume references will be happy to respond. Some may genuinely not feel comfortable making a recommendation. Counsel your candidates to have a back-up plan in place to avoid delays.
Tip #5: Speaking of contact information…
Handing out-of-date or confusing contact information to a hiring manager isn’t likely to reflect well on your candidate’s “attention to detail.” Make sure your candidates provide at least two ways a hiring manager can reach a reference—office phone, mobile, and email, are all good sources (with their references’ permission, of course). Your candidate should be helping the hiring manager reach a reference quickly.
Tip #6: Counsel your candidates to keep their lists of references up to date.
Relationships wax and wane. References are no different. Make sure your candidates understand that a reference from a job they held five years ago might not be the best choice. Your candidate should know who is still an enthusiastic supporter.
Tip #7: Sometimes a candidate will need to look farther.
Recent graduates, people entering the workforce after a long break, or people who are making a career change will likely not have a solid list of references at the ready. Family and friends are still out of the question, but you can get creative. Recent grads should still have close relationships with former professors or leaders of any volunteer projects they handled. Re-entry candidates have often completed job-specific training that might yield good references. Candidates who are making a career change will likely have good references who will need to be coached about which skills are transferable to the new position.
Make every candidate a pro at managing the reference process.