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Reference checks are not meant to be just a perfunctory ticking of boxes after formal interviews and assessments. They should also not be treated as a session of idle gossip or a networking activity. For a hiring strategist, reference checks are one of the final pieces of due diligence in a meaningful and thorough process. A hiring strategist performs a 360o reference check. This means all reporting lines – over and under, as well as at the peer-level and even with internal customers and external clients if possible. We don’t wait until a candidate is pending signing an employment agreement before starting reference checks.

Checking reference should be part of the integrated search process. Keep detailed notes on market feedback and referrals throughout the search – if appropriate, inform people who give referrals that their recommendation will be used as part of the background assessment. It’s all part of painting a full, accurate and detailed picture of a candidate before they are offered a position.

Finally, use a structured format and keep it job / task oriented – this goes back to not turning the reference check process into idle gossip. Use a structured interview style and stick to it – the closer a reference check is to a formal assessment, the better.


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