How to Guide: checking references for a potential employee
Checking a potential employee’s references is tremendously important
A Bank of Scotland survey of 1000 SME’s across the UK, found that 36% of companies with less than 35 staff fail to check the employment history of potential employees.
That is despite 66% of respondents claiming to have had problems with employees whose history was not investigated.
Checking references for a potential employee not only ensures that the applicant has given you the correct details about their skills, qualifications and previous employment, they can also provide useful information about the persons character, reliability and punctuality.
It’s important to only make further enquiries about a potential employee when it is absolutely necessary, i.e. once they have been offered and have accepted the job. This will involve less administration and will also help to prevent breaches of the Data Protection Act and Human Rights Act.
The enquiries should also seek to only obtain information that is absolutely necessary. The level of responsibility associated with the position will determine what information is important to you: for example, if the job involves extensive interaction with customers and clients you’d probably want to ensure that the individual has good communication skills and a pleasant personality.
How do you check references for a potential employee?
The following points are important considerations when deciding how to check references about prospective employees:-
Extra detail can be revealed on the telephone through the speaker’s tone and manner. Try and speak with both the company manager and the previous employee’s direct supervisor if possible.
This will give you a limited amount of information. However, if you send the referee a pre-prepared questionnaire to complete it can work well, see the link below to download my template form. Enclosing a stamped addressed reply envelope will also encourage the provider to respond.
At Kea HR we can organise all CV checking on your behalf, thus saving you valuable time. The service will be tailored to meet your needs and could include checks on employment history, academic qualifications, membership of professional bodies and verification of work permits. Although this will add to the cost of the recruitment process it will ensure that the applicant is suitable for the position.
What information do you collect?
Whichever method you decide to adopt it is advisable to prepare a list of questions before you make contact with the previous employer so that you gain all the necessary information concerning the applicant.
So, what information can you hope to receive from the previous employer?
- Confirmation of Details: it is useful to verify the basic details of the potential employee’s employment history, such as: the period of employment, their position within the company, their salary on leaving etc.
- Reliability and Punctuality: it is important to determine whether the potential employee is hard working, reliable and timely.
- Reason for Leaving: did the employee leave of their own accord? Does their version of the reason for leaving correspond with that given by the potential employee?
- Relations with Clients, Customers and Colleagues: you will need to find out whether the applicant works well with their associates, this is especially important if they will be working within a team.
Data Protection Act
When verifying a candidate’s details, you should explain the process to the candidate. If you will need to obtain information or documents from a third party, such as a previous employer or college, you should first obtain the candidate’s consent.
Before sending out a request for a reference you should think carefully about whether the information that you are providing is sufficient for the employer to identify the individual. You don’t want to receive details about the Alison Smith who was dismissed for Gross Misconduct when the Alison Smith that you have made an offer of employment to demonstrated excellent qualities and the company were sorry to lose her!
Key Points to Consider When Requesting References
- The failure of an employer to provide a reference covering anything other than very basic information should not be seen as an indication of a problem with the prospective employee.
- Any reluctance regarding the provision of a reference or any aspect of one should be followed up by telephone and treated with caution.
- Any relevant information regarding the post should be sent with the reference request to ensure that comments are as relevant to the new role as possible.
- The reference should ask for specific information, focusing on key areas necessary for the satisfactory performance of the role rather than the content being left to the discretion of the referees. It’s focus should be fact rather than opinion.
- Given the difference between individual’s expectations and standards the validity and reliability of anything other than objective information should be carefully considered.
After spending so much time and money in attracting candidates don’t neglect to carry out the final checks
If any discrepancies in information arise during the reference checking process the applicant must be given the opportunity to explain.