Let’s face it, any job candidate can look good on a resume or be dazzling in a job interview. But experienced hiring managers know that until a job candidate’s background is qualified, extending a job offer is premature.
Depending on the job and the industry, qualifying a job applicant can involve everything from extensive background and security checks to physical exams and employment testing. It can be a time-consuming process for sure, even for the most common qualifying task, i.e., the basic reference check.
Simply speaking, a job candidate’s credentials should never be accepted at face value. (Suffice it to say that many job seekers are inclined to embellish things a bit in employment situations.) That said, the burden is on the hiring company to try to verify a job candidate’s work history prior to extending a job offer.
Of course, some job candidates will readily volunteer names or written references from past employers or noteworthy individuals. Employers can and should take personal references into consideration, but it is still a wise Hiring Practice for employers to conduct their own reference checks.
In the past, it was common for hiring managers to simply call an applicant’s past employers in order to get a rundown on an individual. Needless to say, many modern managers shy away from this practice because of potential legalities.
Nevertheless, the telephone is still used by some employers because it is expedient; however, more and more companies today are expected to formalize their reference requests in writing. Even so, the request may be ignored or, if it is answered at all, the information obtained may be very general. Regardless,
prospective employers should still submit the request.
It should be noted that all reference requests should be submitted on company letterhead and signed by a hiring authority. In companies with a Human Resources Department, this task is generally handled by that Function. For small companies, the hiring manager will normally sign the request.
Make the reference request using either a standard form letter designed for this purpose, or a personalized Business Letter tailored for a specific addressee.
Start with general inquiries to verify the applicant’s Name, Employment Dates, Job Title, Education, Salary, and reason for ending employment. Next, you may want to include some qualitative questions about the job applicant’s performance and attributes. Of course, a former employer is not obligated to answer such
inquiries, but it does no harm in asking anyway.
In the end, a reference request, despite your best efforts, may yield little more then a verification of an applicant’s Job Title and Employment Dates. But any information you can verify about a job candidate’s background will help with the overall selection process, especially if there are inconsistencies in an applicant’s work history.
For more information and guidance, consult with your Human Resources Department, or your company’s legal counsel. A quick Internet Search will also yield many useful resources on this topic.