What You Should Be Learning from References

If you are seriously considering a candidate for your open position, do not overlook the importance of checking with their past employers and talking to their references. This should be a prerequisite to making a job offer.

The harsh truth is: A significant percentage of applicants lie on their resumes. In one recent survey, 56 percent of hiring managers caught candidates lying. The most common areas of untruth being embellishment of their skills or capabilities; descriptions of the scope of their previous responsibilities; and in about 25 percent of cases, claiming to have been employed at companies where they had never actually worked.

Which references should you check – and what should you learn from them? Here are some guidelines to get you started.

Employment References

When you check a candidate’s employment record, at the very least, verify the information they have given you. This includes:

  • Employment dates.
  • Job titles.
  • Pay rates.
  • The basic nature of the tasks they performed and the responsibilities they held.
  • Their work habits, including attendance, conscientiousness and their ability to work well with others.
  • Whether or not an employer would hire the person again if given the chance.

Ask for specific examples of times when the applicant demonstrated desired job skills and traits. If an employer refuses to divulge anything beyond the most minimal information, remind them that most states consider it “qualified privileged.” This means the information is protected, as is the company that shares it. They will not be legally liable unless what they tell you is provided with known falsity or in bad faith.

Education References

Like employment histories, education records are sometimes embellished or falsified by job applicants, so you should check them if they are crucial to a job function. Most schools will verify a person’s degree and dates of attendance. You also can usually obtain a transcript by following school guidelines.

  • If you prefer, you can prescreen candidates by asking them for copies of their diplomas or certified copies of transcripts.
  • If you’ve never heard of a school, college or university, check what type of institution it is, which degrees it awards, and whether or not it is accredited.

Personal References

Personal references are hand-picked by candidates, so they usually will not convey negative information. However, they may still be of some value. If you elect to check with them, keep these tips in mind:

  • Consider it a red flag if a person has lived in a certain area for a considerable period of time, but cannot list any local references.
  • Call personal references, rather than emailing or writing them. They are more likely to be honest and candid on the phone.
  • Ask only job-related questions, so as not to give support for a discrimination or other legal claim.

Do you need further guidance in developing and implementing your hiring practices? Consider working with the PrideStaff Fresno team. We can help you address your specific talent management challenges, including screening, interviewing and reference checking. Contact us today, so we can tell you more.

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