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Do You Have Any References?

  Paul Clement

The last time you applied for a job were you asked for your references? As an employer, are you still asking for references and if so, how much weight are you putting on these references when interviewing or hiring a new employee?

The practice of checking a person’s references has been a fundamental step in the interview process since, I can only assume, the creation of companies and workforces. Though it is a time consuming, taxing and often fruitless practice, I have determined through discussions with peers, clients, and colleagues that references continue to be a primary source of intelligence on applicants, though I wonder if they should be. With the variety of services, resources and products that are now available to any manager, HR department or curious co-worker, I really wonder what the value is in performing these sorts of calls.

I was talking to a friend of mine not too long ago about this and she brought up the point that references are definitely useful if you can execute them properly and ask the right questions. They can be an open source of information if you know what you’re doing and know how to properly frame your questions. Looking for the pitch changes in the respondent’s voice and detect subtle nuances may provide you with more information than an applicant’s forward answers in an interview scenario. In those cases, I can certainly see the value but I can also bet two things:

  1. You have no way to be certain that the person you’re talking to is really who your applicant says they are. The most honest looking person could very well be providing you with planted contacts to make them look good.
  2. You don’t want to have to decipher responses and track down people who could very well be the applicant’s buddy or co-worker rather than their boss.

It goes without saying that you would probably check typical social media outlets such as Facebook and LinkedIn to see a person’s history and social tendencies and you may even choose to do a background check just to be extra careful. There are, however, many kinds of aptitude tests, skills assessments, and interview strategies that you can use to truly determine the quality of the candidate. Regardless of someone’s past, I believe that with relevant information and facts in full view, you can make the proper decision on a candidate and limit the risk associated with bringing in a new employee.

Customizable reference checks are one of the many services that ISB Canada performs for our clients and we are constantly adding new elements to this service offering. Whether you’re a large or small company, there are solutions for your specific needs and we at ISB would appreciate the opportunity to learn about your insights and experiences with reference checks.

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