5 Tips for Checking New Candidate References

One of the most critical tasks of the hiring process involves checking into the references provided by interested candidates. When done properly, this step can save you time and aggravation by helping you weed out individuals that might not be the best fit and narrow down your options even further. If you’re not careful, however, performing reference checks can actually end up being counterproductive. That said, here are a few tips and tricks we’ve learned here at Dream Team Elite that will hopefully make the process easier and more effective.

Dig deeper.

Successful reference checks involve in-depth fact finding. That means asking more probing questions (within legal rights, of course). For instance, instead of just verifying that a particular reference knows the candidate, ask specifically how they know each other. Additionally, ask questions that focus on the key competencies of the job as opposed to vague or general questions. Rather than asking a reference to confirm employment dates, ask for an example of when the candidate excelled at a particular task.

Check more than one.

It’s important to recognize that some individuals look great on paper, but perform poorly in interviews. Likewise, one may ace the interview but when it comes to actual on-the-job performance, it’s a whole different story. Take the time to check more than one reference (three is a good rule of thumb). This will allow you to gather a more accurate picture of who the candidate is in the real world, not just based on their resume or interview.

Confirm big claims.

If you’ve got a candidate who boasts about saving his or her previous employer thousands of dollars or creating a marketing program that brought in hundreds of new clients, don’t just take their word for it. First, verify exactly which employer these accomplishments benefited and then do your homework. Make sure these big claims are accurate. You’d be surprised at how many applicants will embellish on their resume or during the interview process.

Practice listening.

For a busy veterinary recruiter, it can be tempting to lead references through the list of prepared questions, but if you’re not careful, you could be putting words in their mouths. This will hinder your ability to gain an accurate understanding of what each candidate truly brings to the table. Instead of saying something like, “What you’re saying is that Adam was a great team player,” ask the reference to provide a real-life scenario that might demonstrate how Adam performed in team settings. Again – the more probing and open-ended the questions, the better.

Wait until a job offer is extended and accepted.

Not only is chasing down references too early a waste of precious time, but it could also potentially jeopardize your candidate’s current employment situation. Alternatively, it might result in a potential bidding war if the applicant’s current employer decides to extend a counteroffer. Instead, make the reference check a contingency of the final hire, after you’ve extended the offer and the candidate has accepted. Provided everything checks out okay, you’ll move forward with the hiring process.

Checking references is a necessary and important part of the hiring process. In fact, when you put the time and effort in upfront, the process of hiring will become much easier and more transparent. Could you use some guidance in this or any other area of veterinary recruiting? Give us a call – we’re here to help!

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