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How to Conduct a Reference Check

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The right way to do a reference check

Reference Checking

Optimise your recruitment practises by learning how to reference check the right way.

We cover why it’s important to ask the candidate to produce a referee list that contains the details of their last two or three leaders.

We also discuss the value of asking behavioural interview questions of the referees to better understand whether the candidate has the experience and skills to do the job.

How to make referee checks more meaningful

Watch the video to understand where reference checking goes wrong in many situations, and what you can do to increase the usefulness of your reference checks for your prospective hires.

Watch the next video in this series here:

Part 8 – Testing Methods to Evaluate Candidates

And watch the previous video here:

Part 6 – What is Behavioural Interviewing

And if you know of anyone who would benefit from this video, please share it with them.

Video Transcript

Hi, Andrew from SACS and welcome to video number seven in our sequence on candidate attraction and candidate evaluation.

In earlier videos, we talked about various techniques to optimise your candidate attraction, including defining the job in a new way which is called outcome based job definition and then stuff about how to make your ads more attractive.

In terms of candidate evaluation, we showed you the accuracy of various methods, and then we’ve shown you how to optimise your scoring of candidate applications and then using behavioural interviewing.

Accuracy of reference checking

This one, we will going to talk about reference checking.

Going back to ranking the accuracy of recruitment techniques, I commented that reference checks are really not very accurate.

And in fact, I said that they’re about 7% accurate or 93% wrong.

Now, if you compare that with really accurate psych tests, I mean, you’ll get 50% out of psych tests alone, add good behavioural interviewing and you’ll probably get 60% accuracy, something like that.

So reference checking is nearly useless, but not quite.

And that’s what we say in this slide here (refer to video).

A couple of points that we’re going to give you to try to optimise your recruitment process in respect of reference checks.

Referee list

Firstly, never accept the candidate’s referee list.

I mean, if you just say, “Okay, well what’s your referee list? We’ll call these people.” I think you’re making a big mistake.

You should tell the person who you want to reference check them with.

And a very sensible thing to do is to reference check them with, let’s say, their last two or three leaders.

And as well as that, if they’ve been a staff leader, if they’ve been somebody to whom staff have reported, why not reference check them with people who have reported to them.

In other words, make sure that they have the leadership capability that they might be claiming.

Behavioural interview questions

Ask behavioural interview questions of the referee, exactly as you do for the candidates themselves.

If you’ve watched video number six in this sequence, you will have noticed that we’ve given really practical suggestions about how to create behavioural interview questions.

The best reference checking approach is to ask exactly the same behavioural interview questions of the referee as you asked the candidate.

So for instance, if this job requires effective supervision of staff in multiple locations, you’ll ask the candidate, “Please give an example of where you supervise staff effectively in multiple locations.”

That’s a good behavioural interview question.

Why not ask the referee the same question. “Please give an example of where this person has supervised staff effectively in multiple locations.”

So that’s a much deeper form of interview question than you would get out of the kind of impression based sort of reference checking that people do.

Well, was this person a good employee, were they punctual, all that stuff.

Why not if the job has certain competencies, ask the behavioural interview questions exactly as you would for the candidate themselves.

Another example, if the job has to achieve a certain budget outcome, please give an example of where you’ve achieved this budget outcome. Ask the referee, please give an example of where this person achieved budget outcomes in the past.

Referee bias

Simple tips, but look, even with the absolute best techniques of reference checking available, you got to understand that the person who’s providing the reference is going to be unprepared or unwilling in many cases to damage the prospects of the person.

It’s a good thing in a sense, isn’t it, about humanity.

So take them with a grain of salt but every so often they do turn up some really useful information that can be used in your ultimate decision.

The next video in this sequence will be about testing.

And so we’re going to be talking to you about some testing approaches like psychometric assessment and we’ll give you some really specific examples of how psychometric assessment can be used and what it’s accurate for.

But as well as that, we’ll be talking about some other forms of assessment like work sample testing, really accurate methods of optimising your candidate evaluation process.

Please join us for the next video to find out more about how you can use testing to optimise your recruitment processes.

Watch the next video in this series to find out more about Candidate attraction & Evaluation:

Part 8 – Testing Methods to Evaluate Candidates

And watch the previous video here:

Part 6 – What is Behavioural Interviewing

And if you’d like some help evaluating your next hire, contact us about our Psychometric Assessment Tools.

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