What’s Involved with a Reference Check?

job reference check

Reference checks can make or break a job offer. It’s not uncommon for employers to call a few references before making a hiring decision, so make sure you have a few people lined up that can speak positively about your skills and experience.

A reference check is a process used by employers to verify job applicants’ work history and qualifications. This is typically done as part of the hiring process and can involve checking references the job applicant provides. This process aims to identify discrepancies between what is stated on the applicant’s resume and what their references report.

Reference checks provide employers with detailed information about applicants’ job history, qualifications, and professional demeanor. Hiring managers typically contact former employers, colleagues, or supervisors to ascertain whether the applicant possesses the required skills.

Such information is critical in determining whether a candidate is a good fit for the job they are applying for while providing employers with an additional layer of assurance during the hiring process. Reference checks can also give employers more accurate expectations of how a job applicant may perform in their role.

We’ll detail what happens during a reference check, including the questions managers can and cannot ask.

Preparing for a Reference Check

job reference check

A comprehensive reference check is essential to any recruitment process, as it helps ensure applicants’ claims’ reliability and accuracy. Hiring managers must ensure that the questions asked are unbiased and focus on factors such as job performance, reliability, teamwork capabilities, communication skills, and leadership potential.

Preparing for a reference check means ensuring that the references you plan to provide are aware of their role and have agreed to provide feedback. This can be done by informing the individuals that they may be contacted and having them provide their contact information. You should provide the references with an overview of the position and your relevant qualifications, so they are prepared to answer any questions. It is also vital to ensure that the individuals you have listed are recent contacts who can accurately evaluate your performance. The more recent your references are, the better.

Confirm the contact details of your references and ensure they can be easily reached. This includes verifying their email address and phone number so recruiters can reach out to them. Failing to provide accurate details can lead to delays in the hiring process or even cause recruiters to move on from a candidate.

Ensure that your references clearly understand the job you’re applying for and the type of feedback they will be expected to provide. This will help make the process smoother, prevent misunderstandings and give you the best possible chance of success. Knowing that your references are well-prepared for the interview makes for a much more positive outcome for both parties involved.

Who Should You Ask to Be a Reference?

job reference check

One of the key steps in the process is assembling your list of references. It’s important to select individuals who you trust will provide honest, unbiased feedback about your job performance and who have seen that performance up close. Your reference list should comprise individuals from both your professional and personal lives that can speak to your interpersonal skills, character, dependability, and past performance.

When selecting references, aim to choose individuals who hold a high opinion of you and can speak to your accomplishments. Ultimately, having a solid list of references can help you stand out and serve as a valuable resource for employers to better understand who you are and what value you can bring.

When selecting individuals for your reference list, consider the skills required for the job you’re applying for and choose references who can speak to these criteria. Additionally, make sure you have a good mix of types of references – supervisors, colleagues, and personal contacts, if applicable – who can provide a comprehensive assessment of your work ethic and qualifications.

Getting Organized

job reference check

Managing contact information for your references is essential in the job search process. This includes ensuring you have current contact information for each reference and keeping track of the references you have used for each job application.

Keep a spreadsheet with all your reference contacts so you are always prepared for a potential employer’s reference check request. This spreadsheet should include each reference’s name, email address, phone number, and relationship to you so that you can quickly provide this information if requested.

Depending on the job, you may also be asked for a character reference letter. These letters provide employers insight into your skills and attributes, just like when they speak to references on the phone. Choosing someone to write your letter is like selecting a good reference. Ask someone who knows you well and can talk about your positive traits.

What Questions Get Asked?

job reference check

Reference checks are done in various ways depending on the employer. Some companies call the references, provide questionnaires, or contact and solicit information via email. Hiring managers will ask various questions to gather a more complete picture of the job candidate. They typically ask questions to verify your interview answers and professional resume, about your job performance and skills, strengths and weaknesses, and work style and work ethic.

The most fundamental part of the reference check is confirming the information you’ve provided is accurate. Employers will confirm the start and end dates of employment, exact names of job titles, job responsibilities, and how the reference knows the candidate. These questions typically come first in the reference check and set the tone for the rest of the discussion.

Employers will want to know about your performance in previous jobs, too. They’ll ask if you’ve shown initiative to learn more or taken on extra responsibilities or if any issues affected your performance. These questions help the manager determine if you’re willing to learn new skills, be a good team player, and are interested in growing your career.

Some reference check questions an employer may ask include:

  • How did this person work as a member of a team?
  • What were their strengths and weaknesses?
  • Did they ever receive a verbal or written warning?
  • How well did they perform under pressure?

Keep in mind that there are some questions managers cannot ask during a reference check. Most of the questions that can’t be asked seem evident because the information could be used to discriminate against you.

For example, questions about a candidate’s age could violate the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. And questions about race, ethnicity, or nationality could potentially violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Other questions that can’t be asked include anything that would reveal disabilities and health status, criminal history, credit and salary, and marital status.

Do Your Best to Find Good References

job reference check

Most companies will call your references only in the final stages of the hiring process. In other words, if you’re the final candidate or one of the last two candidates, this is when references will be called. Sometimes, employers will check references for more candidates, but this is rare.

There are also rare occasions when employers check references before your first interview. This doesn’t happen often, and it’s a little unfair to the references and the candidate, who may get their hopes up. But if that’s how the employer handles it, you must comply if you want the job.

Hiring managers can ask your previous employer to disclose why you left. However, many previous employers fear that if they give out too much information or go too deep, they’ll risk a lawsuit. So, for the most part, employers and references dance around this question delicately.

Employers don’t always call every reference. Like most things in the hiring process, it depends greatly on the company and even the manager within the company. An employer may not call a reference if they think it’s too irrelevant, such as a friend or relative or an outdated reference. Many managers may also ask specifically for a recent reference from a boss or supervisor.

Good references are essential, even if you’re unsure if the employer will call all of them. Finding good references can sometimes be challenging, especially if you’re trying to be discreet in your job search and don’t want your current company to know that you’re looking. Always do your best to track down good references and stay in touch with them. If you can’t find the best ones, track down former co-workers, people you volunteered with, or anyone else who could suitably fill in.

A Crucial Step in the Hiring Process

job reference check

Employers use the outcome of your reference check as one of many data points in deciding whether to extend an offer. If all other things appear equal, your reference check can be helpful when making a final decision. Checking references helps companies make more informed hiring choices and ensure the best outcome for their business.

For job candidates, preparing for a reference check during the hiring process is a crucial step that shouldn’t be overlooked. Make sure you have reliable references who are familiar with your skills and experience and give them all the information they need to speak positively on your behalf. Taking the time to properly prepare for this step can increase your chances of landing the job you want.

Stay tuned to Empire Resume’s blog for more helpful career and employment insights, such as articles like How to Include Achievements in Your Resume, The Mental Game of Resume Writing, and How to Work from Home.

Maria Gold is a Content Manager/Writer for Empire Resume. She is dedicated to helping educate and motivate people with the latest career articles and job search advice. Her interests range from writing to programming and design. She is also passionate about innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology.

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