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Improve your Quality of Hire with Candidate Reference Checks


Reference_Checks.jpgCandidate reference checks are usually one of the last steps of the recruitment process, but too often overlooked or rushed. Forty three percent of human resources professionals said reducing time to hire was a top screening challenge. However, 62% of job seekers have embellished their skill set and 54% have embellished their job responsibilities. In an effort to get new hires started as quickly as possible, organizations risk making a bad hire – which can cost your organization 2.5 times the person’s salary. Diligent screening processes can help you validate that your candidate has the experience, skills, and behaviors your role requires. Before you rush to get that offer into the hands of your top choice candidate, take the time to do candidate reference checks.

Speak with a variety of people

Ask the candidate to speak with 2-3 of their recent managers. This will allow you to get a sense of how the candidate has grown over time, see how they’ve worked in different environments, and sense patterns in their behavior. Don’t be alarmed if the candidate asks you not to contact their current manager – it may not be common knowledge that they’re looking for a new opportunity.

Get a more well-rounded view of the candidate by also speaking with recent peers and, if applicable, direct reports. Peers can give you a better understanding of how the candidate works on a day-to-day basis, since managers may not have had as much face time with your candidate as other team members. Direct reports are particularly important to speak with if your candidate would be managing others in their new role. You will want to ensure that they had positive relationships with their direct reports, and that their management style is reflective of your company culture.

Validate for skill and cultural fit

A quality hire should possess both the skills needed to do their job, and the behavioral competencies to fit in with your organizational culture. With each prior position, verify the candidate’s job title and responsibilities, and dig into the skills they needed and developed in the role. Ask about strengths and areas for improvement so you can get a solid understanding of what the candidate would be capable of in their new role.

Ask questions and listen closely to ensure that candidates have exhibited your organization’s desired values and behaviors in past roles. For instance, if your company values self-development, you want to hear that the candidate has honed their skills and picked up new skills over the course of their career. Use the candidate’s responses to your behavioral interview questions to see if their manager and peers recount the same experiences. You want to see overlap in how the candidate and other team members recall each situation, and how the candidate handled the situation.


While no screening process can ever 100% ensure a quality hire, candidate reference checks provide an additional level of validation. They give you the opportunity to speak with someone who’s familiar with the candidate’s past experience, so you have an idea of how they’d perform in your role in the future. No matter how rushed you feel to fill your open position, don’t skip this crucial step in the recruitment process, or rush through it – your quality of hire may depend on it.

Not sure what to ask in a reference check? Check out our post on example reference check questions

Further reading

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When 62 percent of job seekers have embellished their skill set, reference checks can be a valuable tool to help your team make informed hiring decisions. Hiring managers ultimately make the decision, so it’s in their best interest to conduct the reference check—but they may not know how.

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Effective Interview Training Should Include These 4 Things

Interviewing isn’t intuitive to everyone. In fact, it’s probably not intuitive to most. Your organization’s interviewers have other full-time jobs, and they could benefit from your expertise in this area. By providing interview training, your interviewers will be better equipped to identify the best ...

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