If your job interviews go well, the next step beyond the interview process is often a background check. Employment reference checks, the topic of this post, are the most common element of background checks.
Because of this, it’s helpful for job seekers to know that research has shown that employers check professional and personal references during the hiring process for four main reasons:
1. References Are the Only Way to Get Some Information
First, sometimes the only way to get information about a candidate is to ask other people.
To gain insight into how a job applicant works with others, you have to talk with their former colleagues. Professional references, such as former bosses and co-workers, can provide information about a prospective employee’s interpersonal skills and style and their strengths and weaknesses.
2. To Confirm Information
Second, sometimes recruiters and hiring managers want to double-check what a job candidate has told them.
The most common use is checking work history information, including job titles and dates of employment.
Companies also use employment reference checks to verify candidates’ explanations of why they left previous jobs. Hearing other people’s version of someone’s departure from an employer can confirm what the candidate said. It often also gives more perspective about the event.
3. To Disqualify Candidates
Third, employment reference check questions can help prevent negligent hiring. When I recruited, I used to ask these questions:
- Would you rehire this person? If yes, why? If no, why not?
- Is there anything I should have asked you about that I haven’t?
Every once in a while, the answer to one of those questions was a red flag and a deal killer.
4. To Predict Future Job Performance
Finally, research says employers use employment reference checks to predict performance. I prefer to rely on resume reviews and behavior-based interviews to predict performance.
However, I would love to hear what others have to say about this in the Comments below.
95% of Employers Always Check References
Now, how can the information above help you?
For starters, it’s good to know that over 95% of employers always check references. Thus, be sure your references:
1. Will verify any information you have given to future employers.
2. Understand the job you have applied for well enough to discuss your fit. To ensure that they do:
- Send them the job posting.
- Give them time to read it.
- Then, call them to talk about your fit before they take any reference calls.
3. Won’t share disqualifying information about you:
- So, don’t list references who don’t like you.
- But, if your future employer insists on talking to people who aren’t on your list, know that employers don’t like to give bad references.
Prepare, Then Relax
As you can see, it pays to understand the reasons for employment reference checks and prepare for them.
Once you do, relax — you will be ahead of most of the competition.
Updated July 2019
© 2010 – 2019, Donna Svei. All rights reserved.
Donna Svei, an executive resume writer and former C-level executive, retained search consultant, and CPA, writes all of AvidCareerist’s posts. She has written for and been quoted by leading business, general, and career media outlets, including Forbes, Mashable, Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, Lifehacker, Ask.com, Social Media Today, IT World, SmartBrief, Payscale, Business News Daily, and the Muse. Let her background and experience inform your job search strategy and decision making.