Career Advice

What Makes A Bad Reference Check vs Good Reference Check?

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Performing reference checks are a vital part of every company’s screening and hiring process. Reference checks can reveal good insight and details about a candidate that other background checks don’t, like in-depth details of how they work and communicate with others, professional relationships, job-related skills, and more. 
Currently, an estimated 87% of employers perform reference checks while the screening and hiring process is ongoing.

Another recent survey discovered that 34% of senior managers decided not to hire a job candidate based on a reference check. 
While it’s easy to comprehend that conducting reference checks and having a go-to reference check form is paramount, it can be more demanding to decide about what constitutes a bad reference check vs a good one. The secret is in the references and the reference check answers submitted. 

Bad Reference Checks

Mostly, it’s easier to decode a bad reference check from a good one. Regardless, employers need to be alert for the red flags that can lead to a bad reference check. Red flags like reference checks answering the references themselves, or a misstep on the candidate’s part. 

Some Examples of bad reference checks include:

Candidates who decline to provide References

One of the most evident signs of a bad reference check? You can’t conduct one due to the candidate refusing to provide them. While there could be personal reasons at play (like a candidate not wanting to hint at their employer), this is still an example of a red flag.

SEE ALSO: What Reference Check Questions Can Employers Ask?

If you think that’s the case, request the candidate to provide personal references. If they’re unable to do that still, that is enough reason to disqualify them from the race.

References You Can’t Contact

Another sign of a bad reference check that is underrated is the inability to get in contact with references. Candidates are supposed to make their references aware of the potential phone call or email from an employer or third-party screening service.

If for any reason, references are unaware they were listed, that should be taken as a sign that the candidate doesn’t have a strong relationship with them or failed to effectively communicate with them about it. and in some cases, as a sign that the candidate listed fake references.

References Who are Fake

Still, on fake references, candidates are known to list them, it’s nothing new. This is usually in the form of a close friend or family member impersonating a professional reference or making someone up entirely. To spot the signs associated with a fake reference, search for reference check answers that are greatly vague or looks scripted to your reference check questions.

Another indication of a fake reference is a reference who can’t give details of a candidate’s day-to-day responsibilities and tasks, relationships with co-workers, and any other details a close coworker would normally know. This is the reason why it’s vital to ask specific-opened ended questions to give references the opportunity to provide answers that are in-depth and detailed.

Discrepancies in Job History & Experience

Many employers use tools like Employment Verifications to cross-check if a candidate is honest about their work history on an application. But that can only reveal so little about the candidate’s previous employment and the details provided wouldn’t suffice to rate them as employees.

References, however, can disclose discrepancies and red flags about the candidate’s previous work history and experience. Let’s say a reference worked closely with a candidate. In that case, they should be able to disclose more details about their daily tasks, responsibilities, schedule, attitude, dependability, and more details that can easily be spun around on a resume or job application. If reference check answers disclose a variety of inconsistencies, you should consider it as a red flag.

Good Reference Checks

Detecting a good reference check is also be fairly easy. But just like bad reference checks, there are certain details to pay great attention to. Examples of good reference checks include:

Listing Professional vs Personal References

While it’s not certainly bad for a candidate to list personal vs professional references, it’s a more preferable if all their references are professional ones. This is because they would be providing details closely related to their work ethic, whereas personal references would speak more to a candidate’s overall character. Personal references are also a be a bit more biased in their answers and mostly only provide glittery reviews, and this doesn’t help employers to create a complete and accurate picture of candidates.

References who worked with the Candidate closely

Hiring managers should not under any circumstance assume that all professional references have or had worked closely with the candidate.

Based on the reference check answers, you should be able to identify how closely a reference worked with the candidate. If they can give comprehensive answers and feedback about the candidate’s daily responsibilities, skills, strengths, weaknesses, etc., that’s a great sign you’re getting the correct information.

References who are willing to Discuss Flaws or Drawbacks

Not all ‘good’ reference checks come back with ‘good’ information or glittery reviews. What’s paramount in this case is that a candidate’s references are willing to discuss more unflattering characteristics, like flaws or challenges they experienced in the workplace. This actually paints a more realistic picture of the candidate that you can use when making your hiring decisions.

References who provide Consistent Answers

For hiring managers, it’s paramount to know the difference between a good and a consistent reference, as consistent feedback doesn’t always mean good feedback. If the feedback you received from references are consistent, irrespective of if they’re good or bad, that is a sign that you’re receiving a frank evaluation of the candidate.

If there’s a single bad reference amongst multiple positive feedback (or vice-versa). In these instances, it is advisable to get the candidate’s feedback about the bad reference check to know their side of the story.

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