Work References: A Recruiter's Guide to Gathering and Evaluating Candidate Recommendations

March 8, 2023
Claire Stachniewska
Work References: A Recruiter's Guide to Gathering and Evaluating Candidate Recommendations

If you're a recruiter, you know how much importance job candidates place on their work references. And you also know that these checks aren't just about determining whether or not the candidate would be a good fit for the job; they're also an important part of the hiring process. 

To help you make the right hire, the team at HiPeople have developed an automated reference checking software to help the whole process run a little smoother. 

So what's behind these checks? And why are they so important for recruiters? Keep reading to find out!

What are work references?

A job reference is a letter of recommendation written by a former employer or colleague. Job references are often used in employment applications and interviews to provide a third party assessment of a candidate's skills and qualifications. The content of a job reference typically includes information about the candidate's work history, experience, and achievements.

While it’s no secret that job hunting is undergoing a huge transformation as a result of automation, the reference call still remains as an important part of the hiring process. Why, I hear you ask.

Well, it offers recruiters an opportunity to confirm the candidate’s skill set, experiences or facts stated during the initial interview and to engage in further conversation. 

According to a 2019 Accountemps survey, one in three senior managers remove candidates after a reference call. That just goes to show how crucial it is to the outcome of the hiring process.

How to evaluate work references effectively

When it comes to evaluating work references, there are a few key things to keep in mind. First, we suggest taking the time to actually speak with the person providing the reference. Not only will this give you a better sense of the person themselves, but it will also give you a better idea of how they view the worker in question. 

Second, it's important to look for patterns in the feedback you receive. If multiple people offer similar comments about a worker, it's likely that those comments are accurate. Finally, remember that work references are just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to hiring new employees. 

While they can be helpful, they should never be taken as gospel. In the end, it always comes down to trusting your own judgment when evaluating prospective employees.

Navigating reference calls in a remote work environment

Navigating reference calls in a remote work environment can be challenging. As a remote employee, you may not have access to your manager or other colleagues who can offer support and encouragement during tough conversations. 

However, there are a few strategies you can use to make reference calls more successful. First, make sure to have all of the necessary information at your fingertips so that you can clearly articulate your accomplishments and why you're suited for the role. Secondly, make sure to practice ahead of time so that you sound confident and composed during the call.

Finally, remember that you are speaking to someone who is ultimately looking to find the best fit for their team, so be sure to showcase your strengths while also demonstrating an understanding of what the company is looking for. By following these tips, you can help ensure that your reference call is a success.

Build role-specific reference surveys that move the needle, in seconds:

Common mistakes to avoid when checking work references

The hiring process can be a time-consuming one, and it's easy to make a mistake along the way. One common error is not taking the time to properly check a potential employee's work references. 

It's important to speak with both current and former employers to get a full picture of the applicant's work history. This includes contacting the person directly, as well as speaking with coworkers and other direct supervisors. 

It's also important to ask questions about the applicant's performance and behavior, as well as how they interacted with other staff members. Reviewing employment documents is another essential step, as are taking note of dates of employment and salary information. 

By taking the time to properly vet work references, you can ensure that you're hiring the best candidate for the job.

Using work references to make informed hiring decisions 

As any hiring manager knows, making informed hiring decisions can be difficult. One of the biggest challenges is factoring in the word of the candidate themselves. 

People are sometimes tempted to embellish their experience and skills on their resume in order to make themselves more attractive to potential employers. In fact, a survey by Checkster revealed that 33% of candidates claim to have included false achievement on their resume.

That’s why it's important to remember that a resume is just one piece of the puzzle; work references can provide valuable information about a candidate's performance and behavior that might not be readily apparent from a job application. While it is important to exercise caution when speaking with current or former co-workers, asking questions and listening carefully to the answers can help to paint an accurate picture of the candidate's abilities and personality. 

When used judiciously, work references can help hiring managers make informed decisions about whether or not a candidate is right for the job.

The future of work references in a post-pandemic world.

In a world where more and more people are working remotely and networking online, the role of work references seemingly increased in importance. While other processes have been automated, it would appear that for the foreseeable future the reference call is standing its ground. 

With many interviews now being conducted using video conferencing software, it can be difficult to gauge a candidate's personality and fit for the job.However, work references can provide insights into how the candidate communicates and works with others, as well as details about their performance on previous projects.

Use HiPeople’s science-backed, compliant reference check modules to build your own survey.