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Creative and Compliant Ways to Navigate the Reference Checking Process
Insights From Mettl Company Insights

As long as you want to get a reference as an HR from another HR of the candidate you are considering hiring, it’s fine. But also, it’s not relevant. The issues arise when you want to have a reference checking from a third person- who is not the direct manager of the candidate or not an HR of the candidate’s previous organization. Most probably, you are thinking of getting a reference from a colleague or another cross-departmental acquaintance of the candidate. How do you navigate such complex waters? Read to know more.

  • Ask about the Weaknesses of the Employee:

When you’re reference checking someone professionally, chances are you’re mostly sure about the candidate’s fitment into the organization. While interviewing you have already checked the candidate’s strengths and suitability to the job role. One area not covered efficiently in an interview is the weakness of the candidate. Asking about a candidate's weakness from previous managers help you understand if the said weakness can stymie the role KRAs and organizational culture.

  • Don’t Offer Words about your Understanding of the Candidate:

At the time when you are into the conversation about a candidate's fitment and suitability to your organization, don’t push previous managers into saying that you want to listen, don’t put words into the managers' mouth, and don’t offer words about your understanding of the candidate's strengths to the previous managers. Let them speak and complete their sentences which will help you gauge an individual's candidature.  

  • State the Negative to Elicit the Truth:

You should put all your doubts regarding an individual's candidature into negative questions. You could ask- “The new role would require Agnes to build ways to measure various customer marketing touchpoints. Since there’s no experience her resume regarding this, I suppose she might not be able to do it.” When you assume the lack of experience or skills to be able to do a certain task, two possibilities could occur. Either the manager will refute the claim or not say anything specific. It could act as a silent and subtle sign for what you are looking for.  

  • Use the Present Role’s KRA to Understand Prior Experience:

Ask about a candidate’s prior experience in a task or responsibility that will be important for the candidate in the present role at your organization. You could ask- “The new role would require John to manage a team of at least 30 people. Has John ever managed a team? How was he as a manager? What are his best soft skills?” Such questions will be able to illustrate the capability of an individual to fulfill the current responsibilities to a T.

Topics: Human Resources

Originally published May 10 2019,updated September 14 2019

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