Reference Checks Important Hiring Process

Posted on May 16th, 2016 by Debbie Squier

Reference Checks are one of the most important steps of the hiring process.

You have interviewed a number of candidates and have finally narrowed it down to the one you want to hire. In a haste to hire, you skip the reference check… big mistake.

The reference check can often be overlooked. Although this may seem more like a formality, especially if you have conducted a number of interviews with the candidate already, this step is critical in the hiring process.

Why Do A Reference Check?

Recently, we had an experience where a client was anxious to hire a candidate.
An offer was made contingent upon satisfactory reference checks being completed. As it turned out, the candidate misrepresented their current employment situation and compensation.

They had actually been dismissed from the position where they claimed they worked several months earlier and had lied about their salary. The individual had been reluctant to provide a reference from their “current” employer stating it would jeopardize their current employment situation.

However, with some additional research, the truth came to light and saved the hiring company from making a critical mistake in the hiring process.

Reference checks do not only substantiate employment and education information provided by the candidate; they provide significant information about the candidate’s management and communication style, how they work in a team environment, and their individual work habits.

When conducting reference checks, you ideally want to speak with four to five individuals provided by the candidate including supervisors, peers, and direct reports. In addition to the references provided by the candidate, try to go beyond their list and check with some additional individuals who would have knowledge of the candidate’s work habits and history, as this often provides more in depth information.

The questions you ask are equally important. Ask open ended questions versus “yes and no” question as these types of questions will provided more information. Make sure to avoid any questions that are off limits such as age, religion, sex, marital status or ethnicity.

Legitimate questions include questions about the candidate’s technical skills, interpersonal interactions, social skills, questions pertaining to the new job and verification of dates of employment and relationship of the candidate to the person providing the reference. Make sure to find out why the candidate left each of the positions on their resume and ask if the person providing the reference would rehire them.

Confidential Reference Checks

Finally, remember this information you obtain through reference checks is confidential and should only be shared with the hiring manager or hiring committee.

You can have peace of mind that you are hiring the right person for the position by asking the right questions of the right people and using an executive search firm to reduce your 'bad hires'.

About the Author

IMPACT This Day Inc. is an executive search firm with more than 30 years of combined experience exclusively serving the Direct Selling industry.

Debbie Squier is the President of IMPACT This Day, Inc. You can reach her at or 727-216-6234.