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What Are Job References?

Managers Own Reference Checking

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What Are Job References?
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Reference checking is often relegated to Human Resources in organizations. In my mind, that's not who should own reference checking. The manager of the position should check the employment references. He or she has the most to lose if the needed skills and cultural fit don't work out. The manager's "feel" for the viability of the candidate is also key for the person's eventual success as an employee.

Sure, Human Resources can:

  • own the reference checking process,
  • check references for entry level jobs, and
  • check the candidate's list of prepped references.
But for most jobs, the manager of the position is the best person to reference check. This is especially true for talking with past employers and the candidate's former bosses. The manager knows the technical qualifications a candidate must bring to a position. The manager knows the appropriate questions to ask the current and / or former employer about the candidate's work. The manager can listen for statements that indicate cultural fit and that the strengths listed match the strengths you need.

Before you turn your managers loose on reference checking, however, training in how to check references is required. Since you never get a second chance, particularly with the candidate's former manager, doing it right the first time is paramount. And, this training needs to include how to reach the manager, how to bypass the HR office, if possible, and how to help the reference open up and communicate about the potential employee. Here's a handy reference checking format that you can modify for use in your organization.

More About Reference Checking

Third Party Background Checks

If you use a third party screener and they get the background check wrong, you could be missing out on potentially good employees. Plus, who checks the background and the work of the background checkers? Never sign a contract that indemnifies the checker from liability. Here's an interesting piece at the Christian Science Monitor: Who Is Checking the Background Checkers?

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