Do you believe reference checking gives you an idea of who you are hiring?

Like many of our clients, you may believe references provided by the candidate will always be glowing.  You will find this is not the case.  A survey done by CareerBuilder showed that: 69% of employers said that they have changed their minds about a candidate after consulting a reference, 47% have a less positive view of the candidate and 23% had a more positive view of the candidate; with just 31% saying the references didn’t make any difference.¹

7 Common Mistakes in Employee Reference Checking Include:

1.)   Not Conducting the Reference Check: Who better to tell you about that candidate than people who have worked with them in the past?  Reference checks can be extremely powerful if conducted correctly. For instance, doesn’t it raise a flag to you if a candidate lists 3 references and none of these individuals return your calls?  Additionally, if a candidate provides references who give bad reviews, not only does the candidate need a reality check on how good they are at their job, but they are also missing the ability to self-assess. 

2.)   Not Using Social Media: Social media platforms can be effective tools, giving hiring managers and recruiters a new way to find quality talent. While social media references are typically generic, they can shed some well-rounded light on your candidate.   

3.)   Relying Too Much on Social Media:  While checking out online profiles can be enlightening, you should not immediately disqualify a candidate because of their online profiles. Remember that Social Media profiles are not going to be tailored to your specific business needs and should only be used as supporting information.

4.)   Not Being Flexible in Communication Venues: Provide different avenues for the recommenders to provide references. We recommend you use an actual form for the reference to use in order to make the process as quick and efficient as possible. Additionally, offer to accept recommendations by telephone, letter, email, and fax. 

5.)   Not Asking Detailed Questions of the Candidate’s References: Avoid only asking generic questions about a candidate. Dig deep to discover their work ethic, how they build relationships, their key accomplishments, their strengths and weaknesses. For example, how did the candidate handle conflict? What operational processes did the candidate implement or improve? 

6.)   Accepting Wrong References: The most enlightening references will come from subordinates and supervisors.  References from colleagues, friends, Aunts, Mothers, and other non-professional connections are not likely to provide a clear picture of that candidate’s previous performance.  Only use peer references if the candidate worked a complex project with this team member.

7.)   Not Appropriately Using the Reference Information:  Make sure you are considering the references received as only one part of the overall qualification process.  Immediately rejecting someone because of a bad reference may be a mistake as the candidate may have other more important qualities which align to your needs. 

References are invaluable to predict how a candidate will perform in their future position. We recommend you have at least 3 references in two different roles with a minimum of 2 references from previous supervisors and 1 from a subordinate if possible.  If you need assistance in your reference checking process, let us know and we will be glad to help!

*Statistics courtesy of
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Written by Jessica Nguyen

Dedicated to Every Client’s Success,

Angela Roberts


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