You Got a Candidate Reference, Now What?

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You Got a Candidate Reference, Now What?

In the last few weeks we’ve helped you outline the reference checking process. Now that that’s done, consider the next steps:

Compare Notes

You’ve got the reference, now what? Once you’ve obtained your candidate’s reference, compare notes. You’ll want to check for similarities and differences between what you learned from the candidate about their experience and also from what the reference said.

Red Flags

Identify any red flags or inconsistencies that came up during the reference check. It may help to ask similar types of questions to both the candidate and reference in order to determine consistency and also identify if the candidate embellished their successes or downplayed their failures at all.

Taking the Next Step

Evaluate what you’ve learned from the reference check(s) and apply it to the overall assessment of your candidate. What are the next steps you must take with the candidate to complete the reference checking process and how does this apply to your own hiring process?

At this point many companies may proceed with making an offer to the candidate and yet others will conduct background checks, driving record checks, and drug screens. Whatever step comes next, congratulate yourself! Have a drink! It’s 5 o’clock somewhere and you’re almost done!

How do I Implement This Information?

Good question!

While obtaining a candidate reference is just one part of the interview process, it’s a pretty important step. As outlined in the US Office of Personnel Management’s report, reference checks are a “vital part of a successful hiring strategy [and] aims to verify the information a candidate provided [e.g., resume] and can provide a different perspective. Both instances present a better picture to the hiring manager of how the candidate would perform on the job.”

A reference check provides employers some sort of insurance policy, or at the very least, some further reassurance that their candidate can and will perform successfully on the job by looking at past behavior. This insurance policy ensure you don’t end up like Ron Burgundy in the image below.

We gather a lot of information by viewing a candidate’s resume and during an interview. The one problem with these information-gathering approaches is that all of the information provided thus far has been self-generated by the candidate.

The beauty of the reference is that it provides an outside and, assumingly more, objective view of a candidate’s strengths, weaknesses in relation to the job, and other areas of special interest to the company or hiring manager. Reference-checking allows us to identify any ‘grey areas’ says Paul Slezak, co-founder at, that might not be easily visible in interviews or on a resume.

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