Reference checking often proves one of those tasks in the hiring process that soaks up far more time and energy than expected. You play phone tag with candidates’ old supervisors. The references get very tight-lipped because of decrees from their HR department. The information you get isn’t actionable. If this sounds like your experience, keep reading for six ways you can make the reference checking process more efficient and useful.
1. Ask for a Specific Number
You can’t always predict how many references someone will provide. A highly outgoing candidate might provide a half-dozen. A more reserved candidate might only provide a few. Specifying a set number of references helps you manage the total time the reference checks take.
2. Forget Personal References
Personal references add almost no value to the process. Anyone adding personal references will only select people with a good opinion of them. Asking for personal references also puts the shy or introverted into a tough position without learning anything about their ability to do the job.
3. Use Standardized Questions for All Candidates
A former supervisor who loved a candidate may go on at length about non-critical information. Their positive opinion can skew your perception without the candidate necessarily being the best choice. Develop a standard list of questions you ask all references. This makes the information you gather more relevant. It also gives you a more reliable method of comparing candidates.
4. Make Sure You Speak with a Direct Supervisor
No matter how well-intentioned a manager might be, they often have little direct contact with many of their subordinates. That means they can usually only talk in general statements. The candidate was never in trouble. They got good performance reviews. A direct supervisor can provide you with more concrete information about the candidate’s actual work, even if it’s only through tone and subtext.
5. Leave Reference Checks for Last
Reference checks take time. You need to coordinate with previous supervisors and block out time. Then there is the actual time you spend on the phone. After that, you must compare notes about each candidate’s references. The fewer of these checks you must do, the faster and more efficient the process becomes. Leaving it until you’ve narrowed down the pool to a few candidates makes the process much faster.
6. Work with a Staffing Agency
While this doesn’t streamline the reference checking process itself, it does streamline the process for you. The staffing agency will check the references in advance and weed out the problematic candidates. That means you only need to check a short list of references before you offer to hire someone.
Always Aim for Maximum Value
When making your reference checking process more efficient, always look for what will give you maximum value. That means talking with direct supervisors, asking the same questions, and waiting until you only have a few candidates left.