Should You Evaluate Personal Or Professional References?
Career Advice

Should You Evaluate Personal Or Professional References?

Should You Evaluate Personal Or Professional References? – When looking for well-rounded candidates, recruiters frequently perform thorough screenings, like criminal background checks, employment verifications, and drug screenings. But there’s another vital part of the screening and hiring process: Reference checks.

Why? Reference checks assist you in making a more informed decision about if or not to hire certain candidates and identifying the unqualified ones. In fact, according to a 2019 research by Robert Half, 34% of senior managers decided if or not to hire a job candidate based on a reference check.

Reference checks also enable you to obtain insight into a candidate that other screenings can’t disclose. For example, an employment verification check only confirms information like where a candidate worked, for how long, and job titles during the period. But a reference check discloses way more than that via reference check questions tailored around soft skills.

You can obtain detailed information on: 

  • Strengths
  • Performance
  • Characteristics (e.g. honesty, trustworthiness, adaptability, etc.)
  • Communication style
  • Work ethic and more 

What’s more, you can obtain much more similar information from people who know the candidate in person.

When it comes to reference checks, recruiters often ask themselves if they should check personal or professional references.

The answer is, Potentially both. But there’s a lot to be considered when sieving through personal vs professional references. That’s why we’re breaking down the pros and cons of each.

Personal vs Professional References: What’s The Difference?

Before you decide on whether to check personal vs professional references, you need to better understand what is involved in each one. This is because carrying out reference checks typically takes lots of time, and recruiters need to make sure they’re arming themselves with the best possible information to make the right choice about the candidates.

Additionally, various kind of references provides varying perspectives on each candidate, some that could be useful and others not.

Personal References

Firstly, personal references are normally individuals close to the candidate but has never worked with them. These basically include people like: 

  • Teachers
  • Mentors
  • Advisors
  • Long-term friends
  • Fellow committee or board members

Professional References

Professional references normally are individuals who have worked closely with a candidate for at least six months. They may be a: 

  • Managers
  • Co-workers
  • Supervisors
  • Team members
  • Leadership executives
  • Employees the candidate managed or manages currently

Factually, both kinds of references are crucial in the screening and hiring process as they provide different perspectives of the candidate and can even be the deciding factor about whether to hire a candidate. So choosing the type that best suit the position you’re recruiting for is for us the golden rule.

Pros & Cons Of Personal References vs Professional References

As with most decisions, there are pros and cons to either a personal or professional reference. And, depending on your company values, culture, and overall work pattern, you may realize that one kind of reference would benefit you more than the other.

Personal References: Pros

Typically, personal references would know candidates well and on a personal level. For this reason, recruiters may get to learn details like a candidate’s core values, personality, and character outside of a work environment. All of which is useful and aids better understanding of the candidate and: 

  • How they would fit into your company’s work culture.
  • How well they would thrive in a leadership role.
  • If the candidate’s ideals, morals, and core values are in tandem with that of the company’s.

Also, it’s crucial to take into consideration the candidate’s recent work and educational experience.
If they’re fresh to the labor market, they might not have any go-to professional references and therefore solely rely on personal ones.

Personal References: Cons

The most apparent disadvantage to evaluating personal references is you won’t obtain in-depth knowledge on how the candidate functions in a work environment.
In some cases, personal references could also not be as close to the candidate as professional references would be. For example, if a candidate listed a former teacher or advisor, that reference won’t have an in-depth idea of who the candidate is now, they’d only churn out what they knew and observed when they taught them years ago.

SEE ALSO: Create A Reference Check Form For Your Business

On the flip side, personal references could also be too close to a candidate, thereby lacking unbiased information that would be more helpful in a hiring decision. An example of this would be a candidate listing a close friend or a roommate as a reference. You would only obtain information about their close relationship or other irrelevant details unrelated to the job or the company.

Professional References: Pros

Professional references practically would’ve worked with the candidate for a minimum of six months and possess a close working relationship. These references usually are aware of the candidate’s: 

  • Attitude
  • Strengths
  • Work ethic
  • Challenges
  • Work performance
  • Management style
  • Day-to-day responsibilities
  • Communication style and more

And all of this information are more than ideal for a recruiter to have knowledge of when screening candidates. After all, you need the best possible idea of how that candidate performs in a work environment and how they’ve contributed to their company overall.

Another advantage is that professional references frequently give a more unbiased view of the candidate. If their relationship with the candidate is solely professional, they would not feel the need to refrain from discussing potential struggles or unflattering characteristics.

This provides you with a better holistic view of the candidates to enable you to make more strategic, informed decisions about whether or not to hire them.

Professional References: Cons

On the flip side, candidates most likely wouldn’t list professional references that’d give them a poor review. This is expressly true if the reference didn’t directly work with the candidate, such as a higher-level manager.

Additionally, some candidates don’t list any professional references from their present employer so as not to tip anyone off that they’re seeking opportunities elsewhere. In this case, you might not get an accurate evaluation of how a candidate performs in their present position, along with their responsibilities, work style, and more.

This could also be a disadvantage if a candidate has been working with their present employer for several years, as a lot could’ve changed over the years. As a result, recruiters would be left with a blind spot when making hiring decisions about that specific candidates.