Tips When Checking References
Updated: Apr 28
References are a great way to learn more about the person you’re thinking of hiring. Through the eyes of someone else, they offer insight into the strengths and weakness of a candidate, their personality, and their accomplishments.
Below we highlight some best practices when checking references.
1. Call and talk to at least two references.
Written references are easy, but it doesn’t go beyond the words on the page. If the perspective employee hasn’t already, ask them to provide you with a phone number for at least two of the references they provided. Actually having a conversation with their references will allow them to expand on points they made in the letter and you can also ask them more questions if you feel there are any gaps.
2. Be aware of fake references.
Another reason why you should call a candidate’s references is to check whether or not they are fake. If you find that you’re constantly getting vague answers when talking to them, there’s a chance that the candidate could have told this person to pretend to be there supervisor or boss. You should also cross check references on LinkedIn to ensure their name and position match up. Click here to read more about spotting a fake reference.
3. Don’t brush-off references.
Checking references is not a waste of time. Chatting with other people who have worked with the perspective employer can give you insight and even make or break a decision to hire them. Use reference checks to learn about the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses in order to develop and train them.
4. Bad references don’t necessarily write-off the candidate.
People commonly think that a more negative reference means that the candidate isn’t a good employer, but that isn’t necessarily true. It could just mean that the employer wasn’t an exact fit for that company’s work culture. (This is a good example of why you should actually talk to a candidate’s references in order to learn more about what isn’t written between the lines).
5. Ask open ended questions.
Don’t lead on references by asking questions like “So you say that Peter is a good accountant?” Ask more open-ended questions like “What are Peter’s strengths?” You’ll get a more detailed answer rather than just a yes or no.
6. Think about doing a credit and police check.
This is becoming a common addition before hiring an employee. It’s an extra step you can take at fairly low cost to be extra sure about the person you are hiring, making sure their credit and criminal record are clean too.
Click here to watch President of Toronto Entrepreneurs Marc Belaiche, CPA, CA discuss this topic.