#DecodingSocialSector: A Guide To Reference Checks

– Aditi Agrawal

A reference check is a process by which organisations get information about candidates they are looking to hire from the candidates’ previous employers. This information may include details such as their work experience, education, background, personal information etc.

Employers usually do a reference check before the finalise hiring someone. The applicants themselves provide the details of the referee.

There are various reasons for conducting a reference check. A few key ones are listed below:

  • To verify the authenticity of the information provided by the candidate during the hiring process
  • To get details on both, the applicant’s hard and soft skills, and to ascertain his fit
  • To identify any behavioural patterns displayed during his previous work stint

Reference checks are usually carried out by organisations themselves. But in some instances, these may also be outsourced to specialised agencies.

Some guidelines that employers can follow before going in for reference checks are:

  • Seek permission from the applicant for the reference checks
  • Restrict the queries strictly to previous employment and job-related information
  • Have a list of standard questions ready for this purpose
  • One may also email the questions to the referee directly and ask them to document the same
  • A reference check is the last, and most critical step before a job offer is rolled out. Therefore, job applicants must be very careful in selecting the right referee.

Referees provide additional information that may not come through to your potential employer in the hiring process. They are able to shed light on a candidate’s work history, behaviour, education, skills and qualifications. This helps to reinforce what a candidate may have already said through their application.

Apart from the above, referees may also be asked to comment on more specific things such as work habits, punctuality, working style etc.

Who Can Be Referee?

Ideally, a referee must be someone who has been closely associated with you professionally and is in a position to provide a relevant reference for you. Some people who would qualify as a referee are:

  • Former employers – direct, indirect supervisors
  • Teachers/PhD Supervisors
  • People you have worked closely with- this may also include clients or people who may have reported to you

Some tips to choose a referee are:

  • Ask for their permission to list them as your referee
  • Keep them updated each time you put down their name as a referee
  • Have a minimum of three referees available
  • Review your referees each time you apply for a new job and only list the ones most relevant to the current opportunity

A good referee can make a lot of difference to one’s application and therefore it is essential to exercise caution when choosing a referee for this purpose.

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