Smart employers still check references and learn a lot about their preferred hire. But many small businesses just assume that they will not get any info beyond title and date confirmation. Or they think they know the applicant already and do not bother to check.
How do you get useful information?
1. Ask finalists for the right references – request at least four or five previous bosses, project leaders, others with knowledge of the person’s performance, each with current phone or email information. Entry level person? Ask for part-time work bosses, volunteer managers, professors/teachers. Tell the applicant when you are going to call the reference and who will make the call.
2. Create a basic script to use with the references. Tell the person a bit about your organization, the specific position, and that you need their help so you can hire the person. Build rapport. Ask questions about the critical elements of the job, starting with the easy questions. Remember to ask some questions to help you assess if they can succeed in your culture.
Listen to what each reference says and how they say it. Enthusiastic descriptions of past work are valuable but so are the long pauses and polite but limited responses.
If you get told that they cannot give a reference due to company policy, ask if you can call them at home. If they say no, ask for someone else they think can give a real reference but who is no longer with the company. Most references want to help IF the applicant has asked them to do so and told them you are calling. If they have not, what does that tell you about the applicant?
Think about the applicant – do you know […]