Qualitative references are a good opportunity to learn about your candidate’s past performance. The information that you obtain is invaluable. You can learn what motivates your candidate, the best way to support them, and help them become more productive. Every now and then a thorough reference interview will uncover a few skeletons in the closet.
What we have learned as reference checkers, is to use all the information provided to us. We will look at the resume, the job description and the references that the candidate provides. Often the candidate’s behaviour around their references can indicate a red flag. This is evident, even before we start on the telephone calls. For example, a candidate who provides references that are 10 years old, raises concerns. People grow and develop in 10 years, we question why the candidate does not provide more recent references. It can be as innocuous as someone who has been in the same role for 10 years or that they have been out of the work force for a little while. However, the first thing that comes to mind, is why are they not giving more recent contacts and are they hiding anything? Has their performance in recent years been questionable? It is certainly an area that should be investigated.
Recently, we did a background check on a candidate who has applied to be an Executive Assistant for the company`s CEO. We had a hard time confirming employment because the dates that she provided were incorrect. She was placed on a temporary basis through an agency, which was not indicated on her resume. When she was questioned, she could not recall dates of employment or the name of the agency. She assumed if she put alternate dates, it was good enough. This speaks to both her attention to detail and her organizational skills. We completed her references and we learned that she is extremely likeable and her referees were hesitant to say anything negative about her. When probed further about these skills, we uncovered that both her detail and organizational skills can be developed.
Another candidate that we recently referenced was for a Quality Assurance positon. There were spelling mistakes in his resume. We all make mistakes; we are all human. However, when someone is applying for a position where he will be responsible to ensure compliance, are several spelling mistakes acceptable?
Paying attention to what the candidates do, as well as what they say, will help you with your reference interview and give you a better insight into what you can expect from the new hire.