Human Resources Tip – Tips For Employee Reference Checking

So you’ve finally found a new employee to fill that position that has been noticeably vacant for the past three months (maybe not in this economy). You have run candidates through interviews and assessments and you’re sure that this person is going to shine in their new role with the company.

A week later you get a call from the new-hire’s manager and find out the person you believed to be the next Jack Welch turned out to be more like a Bernie Madoff (ouch)! The new-hire has been caught doing everything from stealing office supplies to making inappropriate comments to another employee. All you can do is hang your head and say…DOH!

So how could this have been avoided? The answer is: a simple reference check. Here are few tips for conducting an effective reference check, which may help you avoid the horrible vignette described above:

  • Check all the references listed on the candidate’s application (I do mean all of them) – Take the information you already have in hand and make sure to use it. An applicant may have provided references from personal acquaintances, schools he/she may have attended, and, more than likely, any former employers. Be sure to scrutinize the information received from the past employers. Acquaintances and past academic connections may give a skewed picture of the candidate; after all, who wants to say bad things about a friend or alumnus?
  • Realize that there is always going to be some risk involved when bringing on a new-hire. The point of checking a person’s references is to make sure that the person is exactly who they portray themselves to be. Though this does not eliminate 100% of the risk (no pre-hire measure ever will) and you may be hard pressed to get legitimate, useful answers out of any listed references, it is still best to cover all your bases.
  • Make sure you inform the candidate you are checking up on them. Federal law requires that you inform potential employees that you are running a background/reference check via a reporting service. There is no need to be secretive; it is well within you right to ensure you are hiring the employee you want and believe them to be – just make sure you are acting on the right side of the law.