For each job opening you post, you're likely to receive dozens, even hundreds, of applications. Interviewing these applicants will give you some idea of their business skills, but interviews often hide as much as they reveal. To find out more about a person's abilities, call the job references listed on their application and pepper their former bosses with questions.
Contacting job references can:
- Tell you how well an applicant may fit in with the rest of your employees.
- Identify which skills an applicant has actually demonstrated in the past.
- Save you money by separating the star performers from the hapless.
Get permissionBefore you start calling a candidate's references, the candidate must give you permission to call his or her former employers.
Prepare your questionsWhen you call former employers, have a list of questions handy and let that list guide you through the interview.
Enlist online human resources helpQuickBase, from Intuit, is a Web-based solution that can give you access to helpful information on managing the hiring process.
Stick to businessYou're not trying to find new friends, so keep your questions professional and on-topic.
Hire an investigatorStill not sure that you can tell the phenoms from the phony baloney? Then sign up with a professional reference-checking service.
- Call references. You can ask follow-up questions immediately if an unusual answer warrants more investigation.
- Contact at least three references. One rave review might be accidental; two suggest a trend; three show consistency.
- Ask former employers to describe the applicant's previous job duties, promotions or demotions.
- Verify employment dates, job titles, salary history, attendance record and reason for leaving.
- After asking a question, give the reference time to think of a response. Don't suggest answers or rush the person for an answer.
- Don't expect references to spill the beans on employees who misbehaved. The threat of lawsuits will lead many employers to say "no comment" in place of anything negative.