Making the most of candidate references

Bennett Sung Corporate Recruiting, Tips & Tricks

Recruiters do a lot of work to make sure they find and hire the perfect candidate for a business. There’s no question a great deal of research and observation goes into a hiring decision. Contacting references must be part of this process, as recruiters can learn a great deal about candidates from their references that isn’t always evident on paper.

Why are references important?
References are used to find out more about a candidate’s personality and work ethic in a professional setting, though they can also help recruiters decide between two equally qualified candidates. The Bridgespan Group noted references can help confirm or deny an applicant’s skills and experiences listed on a resume or discussed in an interview. Ideally, these references have known the candidate for a good amount of time and experienced them in a work environment performing a variety of duties.

How to obtain references
Businesses conducting both reference checks must let the candidate know it’s likely the names given will be contacted in relation to their job search. While this may seem obvious, it helps build trust between the organization and the applicant. Candidates need to know the recruiter is on their side and simply seeking additional information to make the best decision for both the company and the candidate. Plus, if job seekers do not want their current employers to know they’re looking elsewhere, they may request recruiters don’t call a particular reference until an offer is imminent or has already been made.

Regulations to keep in mind
If a potential employer feels the need to conduct a background check in addition to checking references, he or she must adhere to certain guidelines. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, any background or reference check must comply with the anti-discriminatory guidelines set up by the EEOC and the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The EEOC and FCRA prevent employers from discriminating against workers based on their race, color, age, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religious beliefs and more. Recruiters must also be aware of which candidates’ they focus their checks on. Should a business only look into references provided by female applicants and not those provided by male applicants, this would count as discrimination.

The Society for Human Resource Management recently reported employers performing background searches through LinkedIn do not need to comply with the stipulations set up by the FCRA. Since LinkedIn is not a consumer reporting agency, employers can use the site’s reference search feature to find out more about candidates.

How to talk to references

  • Entrepreneur advised recruiters to begin any conversation with a reference by establishing the exact relationship between the reference and the candidate. Whether the two were co-workers or classmates will affect the reference’s perspective.
  • Confirming the information given on a candidate’s resume should be accomplished as quickly as possible. Should any experience be fabricated or enhanced, this is a strong indicator the applicant may not be a qualified fit.
  • The U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board encourages all potential employers to stick to specifics about workplace behavior and productivity when talking with a reference. While behavior outside the office is definitely helpful, it’s the actions on a professional level that matter most. In addition, avoid asking yes or no questions. Asking open-ended questions about the candidate’s work ethic will garner more usable information.
  • Ask a multitude of questions, both about the applicant’s achievements and weaknesses. One way to discover more on these topics is asking how candidates improved over time in previous positions.

When it comes to finding the best candidate for a company’s open role, recruiters need to do their research. Organizing data from references with candidate management software makes the entire process less time-consuming and more digestible, ensuring the right decision is made.

Jobscience | Beyond the Applicant Tracking System