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Five Techniques for a Successful Reference Check

The main objective of reference checks is to identify past behaviours and experiences to indicate future behaviour and performance. No matter who does your reference check, they should be done with expertise and the following will go some way to help. Successful techniques include:

  1. Have the questions prepared prior to performing the reference check. It’s important to ensure these questions address any concerns that may have been raised during the interview. Use the job description and organisational culture as a guide.
  2. Use open ended questions, for example, ‘please comment on’ or ‘describe’. This allows the responder to give you what they feel to be important.  And if it's important to them, it will be worth listening to.
  3. Always ask about real (not hypothetical) scenarios to validate the candidate’s actual experience and capability. 
  4. Be aware of fake references. Often previous colleagues will - believe it or not -, pose as managers and the like. Conducting research through various social media sites, for example, LinkedIn and Facebook will determine the validity of the referee. Calling the company the reference represents directly (on their landline) is another technique.  
  5. Complete a minimum of three (3) verbal reference checks. Make sure you take detailed notes; doing so allows you to identify potential trends.
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