How to Conduct Employment Reference Check

Someone calling which demonstrates calling to check references.

Not all job applicants are honest about their qualifications and employment background. With an employment reference check, recruiters can determine who’s telling the truth or lying on their resume and during interviews. It also helps you learn more about applicants and determine whether they are fit for the role they are applying for.


If you’re conducting an employment reference check for the first time, you can use this article as your guide. It will cover the basics and process of employment reference checks.


What Is A Reference Check?

A reference check is when an employer, recruiter, or hiring manager contacts the applicant’s former workplace to learn more about the candidate’s skills and work performance

If the applicant is a fresh graduate with no job experience, the recruiter may contact the school or other individuals who can speak about the candidate’s work ethic, character, and overall experience.


Differences Between Reference Check and Background Check

While reference and background checks are crucial in screening applicants, these two processes are fundamentally different.

A recruiter conducts a reference check to get to know the candidate better, specifically their performance and character at work. On the other hand, a background check is usually conducted to verify information about the candidate, such as credit history and criminal records. 


How Does an Employment Reference Check Work?

Traditionally, recruiters conduct reference checks late in the interview process. They call professional or personal references to ask them questions about the candidate. It’s also an opportunity to know whether the candidate is a culture fit.

The process tends to be time-consuming, so some recruiters choose to use reference check systems instead. While each solution works differently, they make it possible to get the information they want from references more quickly and efficiently.


Why Conduct an Employment Reference Check?

As an employer or recruiter, you want to hire someone who’s fit for the role. But you cannot only rely on the content of the candidate’s resume and their interview to make a hiring decision. 

Some applicants include false statements on their resume. They may lie about their employment gaps, experience, or other details about their employment. Conducting an employment reference check is a way to spot any lie and learn more about the candidate. It also offers other benefits.


The Benefits of an Employment Reference Check

  • Get additional information on a candidate’s work performance and skills. 
  • Verify work-related details provided by the candidate.
  • Help assess the candidate’s potential success in the role.
  • Make better hiring decisions.


When to Do an Employment Reference Check

An employment reference check can be time-consuming, so it’s typically done after narrowing down the candidate pool to just a few choices through various methods like using a candidate persona.

Recruiters typically contact the given references toward the end of the hiring procedure. You may conduct the reference check after confirming the candidate is who they say they are through a background check.


How to Conduct an Employment Reference Check

While an employment reference check seems like a straightforward process, there are still specific steps you must follow. 

  1. Get consent from the candidate before contacting any reference. The candidate may still be employed and they may be left in an uncomfortable position if you contact their employer.
  2. Prepare a list of questions beforehand to ensure you gain meaningful insights. 
  3. Contact the given reference. You can begin by introducing yourself to the reference, and then ask if it’s a good time to speak with them. You can be transparent about the role so the reference knows how to evaluate their previous employee.


Questions to Ask

Here are some questions you should consider asking during a reference check:

  • What was your relationship with the candidate?
  • How long did you work with the candidate?
  • How would you describe the candidate’s overall performance?
  • What were the candidate’s top strengths and weaknesses?
  • Do you recall a time when the candidate received disciplinary action?
  • How well did the candidate work with their colleagues or the rest of their team?
  • Is there anything else you would like to share about the candidate?


Best Practices: Do’s and Don’ts

Here are some more tips to set your reference check for success:

  • Do take the reference check process seriously and make preparations.
  • Do keep the line of questioning job-related to prevent the reference from making potentially libelous statements.
  • Do look out for fake references by checking the references on social media, cross-checking their phone numbers, etc.
  • Do take notes during the phone interview.
  • Don’t ask leading questions or statements.
  • Don’t assume reference checking is a waste of time.


Be a Reference Check Pro with Kilpatrick Executive Professional Help

Conducting an employment reference check can help ensure the candidate you hire fits the role. But if your team struggles to find the right talents despite a thorough employment reference check, Kilpatrick Executive can help. With the assistance of seasoned coaches and state-of-the-art technology, your team can build a workforce that drives business success.

Contact us to learn more about how our coaches can help with employment reference checks and the overall hiring process.