Reference checks have never been more important than in a world of virtual hiring and interviews. In a lot of instances, companies are having to hire candidates without ever physically meeting them in person.
Companies are putting increased importance on reference checks and have been moving from phone and email reference checks to video calls to increase their effectiveness. Getting a read on things like body language can provide a better understanding of the true responses during the reference.
Reference checks are useful to evaluate how the candidate will perform and what management styles are best suited to achieve maximum performance. They also protect employers from legal liabilities. There can be cases where a candidate
is hired with a wrongful past. Candidates will never tell you that they were actually let go from a previous role for fraudulent activities.
Considerations & Key Tips
Is the referee in a position to provide the right type of insight?
In executive search especially, you may be doing reference checks on a former entrepreneur who didn’t have a boss they reported to. Perhaps they’ve always been an entrepreneur and are finally making the switch to the corporate world.
You might also come across scenarios where candidates cannot provide their current boss as a reference as they do not want them to know they have applied for another position. If that candidate has been in that role for a number of years, does their previous boss have enough current interaction to be able to speak to the candidate’s current experience?
When conducting personal reference checks with trusted sources for the candidate, it is more effective to ask fewer sources that have worked closely with them and/or for a long period of time.
This data will ultimately be more candid and useful for information verification in comparison to asking a larger pool of sources that, for example, only worked with the candidate for a short amount of time or are connected more-so on a personal level. Ultimately, it is essential to
contact trusted sources that will provide transparent insight.
You may have to work with the candidate to work through who the best references might be to ensure you extract the right information.
How to extract the right information?
If you are performing video references, read their body language, are they pausing or hesitating before answering a question? If so dig deeper to truly understand the right information.
After completing a reference check, you should be able to compile a couple pages of notes that help you understand how the candidate will perform under certain circumstances that may arise in your working environment.
This information is vital to understand the best approach to manage the candidate to maximize their performance. It is also important to provide the information to the hiring manager or the person that the new candidate will be reporting to. This information will be crucial to the success of their relationship and provide a deeper understanding of
the candidate will be managed.
How to ask the right questions
Ask questions that elicit conversation.
Questions should not be a “yes” or “no” answer. Instead of asking “Did John have
the skills to be able to perform his job?” ask “Can you provide examples of how John’s used his skills to excel in his role. If he wasn’t able to excel, can you explain where the gaps were?”
Complete your own independent research
Listen to what you hear from the candidate, the referee, and do your own independent research and verification to ensure proper due diligence of all of the information they have provided.
Some research methods to explore are as follows:
An extensive Google search
Websites of organizations where the executive was previously employed
News articles that have information regarding their organization/company’s successes
Whether you are conducting reference checks by video, phone or email it is important to ensure you are able to extract the information you need through comprehensive questions that elicit conversations, as well as conducting your own research to ensure the quality and performance of your new employee.
Source: Extract from The Non Profit Executive Search Hiring Guide, KeyNote Search, 2020