Many firms have given up on checking references because they expect to get canned answers or sometimes run into a road block of an organization that has a strict policy against giving references.
By abdicating reference checking as a practice, firms sometimes lose out on one of the key benefits of checking them–candidates who withdraw from consideration for fear of being exposed as failures.
When you do your initial phone interview or, if you are working with third party recruiter, tell the applicant and tell the recruiter to tell the applicant that you will be doing in depth background checking including wage verification.
At the time they complete the employment application, have a section on the application that allows you to check references. It can be as simple as:
AUTHORIZATION FOR PRIOR EMPLOYER TO RELEASE INFORMATION
(Please read the following statements, sign below, and return to the Human Resources office.)
I, ____________, hereby authorize my prior employer, _______________, to release any and all information relating to my employment with them to ________________ (your company’s name). I further release and hold harmless both ______________ and _____________ (your company’s name) from any and all liability that may potentially result from the release and/or use of such information. I understand that any information released by my prior employer will be held in strictest confidence, that it will be viewed only by those involved in the hiring decision, and that neither I nor anyone else not so involved will have the right to see the information.
Signature of Employee Date
Employee’s Name – Printed
Letting them know that you intend to check references AND having them complete a form like this (or incorporating it into your application) gives you legal permission and right to do so under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (Remember: Adverse information that is exposed in a reference check is just like getting a bad credit check under the law. The applicant is entitled to written notification AND the opportunity to rebut it in writing.
When you check references, tell the former manager or boss about the position you are interviewing for, particularly if they have managed the person more recently.
Listen for signs of sincerity like a statement along the lines of, “I knew her four years ago and don’t know how they developed since leaving me.” you can trust everything they tell you from that point on.
Conversely, listen for telltale signs of baloney. If you hear it, investigate it further, quoting something that the applicant told you that conflicts with the statement.
At worst,a reference will be extremely ordinary. At best, it will convince you to hire or cause someone to withdraw their candidacy.
Do you want to hire ordinary people or people who withdraw when informed?
I suspect not.
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