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Why Reference Checks are important

Most reference checks are the outcome of a telephone conversation by a recruiter, usually after interviews have been completed. But often applicants don’t maximise their opportunities.

Most recruiters will take little notice of written references. Many companies have policies prohibiting managers from providing written references, in light of potential litigation.

A reference check is not a fishing expedition, but a structured and important part of the hiring process. Research has indicated that reference checks have about half the validity of structured interviews.

Three ways to differentiate yourself

There are three very deliberate actions that you can adopt to achieve significantly better results from reference checking. It is not sufficient to provide only a small number of referees, which often seems to be the general practice.

(a) 360 Reference Checking

Extrapolating the benefits from 360 feedback systems, you can ensure that your list of referees include:

  • Your manager’s manager;
  • Your manager;
  • Your peers or colleagues;
  • Your direct reports;
  • Your clients and customers.

(b) Appropriate Referees

Often candidates neglect the opportunity to provide referees that cover their most important achievements. Review your CV and try to match your referees in a more deliberate manner. By clearly linking your referees to your career history, you will also find it easier to identify your potential referees.

(c) Preparing your referees

A well-prepared referee, who has some understanding of the role that you are being considered for, will be able to provide more useful and pertinent information during the reference check. It is important that you always take much more time in discussing your career objectives and recruitment activities with your referees.

Taking Action

In summary, these three steps can significantly influence the outcome of your reference checks. There is no need for an irrational fear that the reference checking process will jeopardise your chances of getting the job offer. Reference checking is an important step in the recruitment process.

Travel safely!

Charles van Heerden

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Charles is an HR careers expert with a strong focus on talent management. He has been an HR Director in three countries, a senior line manager and a consultant. Charles holds a degree in Psychology and has completed advanced studies in HR and change management.

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