Trust & Safety
The Importance Of Professional Reference Checks
During the screening and hiring process, employers conduct reference checks to obtain information about a candidate’s previous work experience, such as the candidate’s soft skills, character, general reputation, and personal characteristics, that an Employment Verification does not provide.
- Verify the candidate’s reputation and trustworthiness
- Gather a realistic assessment of the candidate in the workplace
- Determine whether the candidate is a good fit for the position
- Make informed decisions about who to hire
What’s Included In A Reference Check For Employment?
A Professional Reference Check involves contacting a candidate’s former employer and/or supervisor to learn more about the candidate through a series of open-ended questions. A full written transcript of the interview is provided for the employer’s review. The reference check results help give you insight into the individual’s:
- Ability to work with others
- Communication skills
- Areas for improvement
How GoodHire Reference Checks Work
Professional Reference Checks are generally conducted by the employer, recruiter, or hiring manager by calling professional or personal contacts provided by the candidate. This is a time-consuming process—hiring teams can spend hours chasing down references and conducting lengthy phone interviews.
With GoodHire, our team of experts helps reduce your workload by calling the specified reference. During the phone interview, our team asks a series of open-ended questions to get the detailed information and perspective you need to make an informed hiring decision.
Learn More About Professional Reference Checks
How Can You Stay Compliant With FCRA & Professional Reference Checks?
Employers using a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA), like GoodHire, to run background checks to assess candidates during the hiring process have important responsibilities to ensure a fair and respectful process for the candidate, and to comply with various laws and regulations that govern employment screening.
Disclosure & Authorization
The FCRA requires employers to inform the candidate that they intend to run a background check, and obtain the candidate’s permission to do so. For reference checks, also known as investigative consumer reports, an additional, special disclosure is required under the FCRA.
Additional Certification Is Required
The employer must provide certification that they have provided special disclosure language to the candidate regarding the investigative consumer report.
If the results of a background check, including the reference check, prompts a decision to deny employment, the FCRA requires employers to follow specific adverse action steps.
Learn More About Professional Reference Checks
A professional reference check gives employers a uniquely human view into a candidate’s work history and performance. Professional references can provide context about the information in a candidate’s resume and round out a comprehensive pre-employment background check with a more holistic picture of a candidate’s work style and experience. Here’s more about what goes into a professional reference check, and how a professional reference checking service can ease time demands and deliver consistent, compliant results.
What is a professional reference check?
A professional reference check involves contacting former employers, supervisors, colleagues, or educators to gain additional perspectives on a candidate’s work history, skills, experience, and ability to work with others. A reference check adds a human dimension to the information you gather about a job candidate or volunteer, providing an opportunity to get real-life feedback on how a candidate performed on the job—and what it is like to work with them.
Some employers conduct their own reference checks, but contacting and interviewing references is often time-consuming. Partnering with a professional reference checking service, like GoodHire, can ease the administrative burden and help you get unbiased, detailed references that also support compliance with applicable laws.
What does a professional reference check show?
Professional reference check services for employers can clarify a candidate’s role and accomplishments at previous jobs. Results can vary widely, depending on your methodology, the questions you ask, and the responsiveness of the interviewee. For example, employers (or the reference checking service they partner with) may ask a range of questions to establish basic facts about the candidate’s job and learn more about their work experience.
Here are a few examples of open-ended questions that invite discussion:
- How would you describe the candidate’s relationship with coworkers?
- Can you share some of the candidate’s strengths and accomplishments?
- What are some areas of growth?
- Would you hire this candidate again?
WHAT ARE RED FLAGS ON A PROFESSIONAL REFERENCE CHECK?
The line between a good reference and a bad one can be blurry at times, but there are a few circumstances that may require additional investigation. Though these red flags may not, by themselves, be a reason to avoid hiring a candidate, they could warrant further review by the hiring manager.
- No available references: Candidates may be reluctant to use a current supervisor or employer as a reference, but they should be able to suggest a past manager or colleague who can speak on their behalf. If their work experience is limited, they might have personal references they can provide.
- Vague references: Ideally, candidates provide contacts who are familiar with their work and have agreed to serve as references. References who have trouble discussing the candidate’s basic job responsibilities and performance may come across as less than credible. References you cannot reach may not exist.
- Inconsistencies: The candidate’s resume says they’re an experienced manager, but their reference says they never had a supervisory role. Employers need to evaluate inconsistencies case by case, but it’s wise to think ahead about how you want to handle information from a reference when it doesn’t match up with what a candidate presented.
How long does an employment reference check service take?
Because reference check services for employers involve contacting multiple people, finding convenient scheduling times, and conducting live conversations, turnaround times for reference checks can range from a few days to a week or more. Interviews themselves may take 30 minutes to an hour.
Employment reference check services can’t eliminate the human time element from this process, but it can help lift the burden from employers. GoodHire saves employers time by taking on the work of contacting and interviewing references. GoodHire’s built-in tools help the background check process run smoother—and faster—by supporting compliance measures like obtaining consent and keeping candidates updated on the status of their report from start to finish.
How professional reference check services work
A professional reference checking service can conduct reference checks on an employer’s behalf. If you’re working with a consumer reporting agency (CRA) that provides professional reference checking services, the company you partner with will have their own process. Our team conducts one-on-one phone interviews with each of the candidate’s references.
Here’s how the process works:
- A candidate provides up to three references and gives permission to contact them.
- A team member reaches out to the references via phone to conduct an interview.
- Working from a templated list, the interviewer asks ten open-ended questions to get detailed answers about the candidate’s work performance and work style.
- Employers receive a summary of the responses.
Reaching out to multiple references for multiple candidates can be time-consuming for employers who choose to handle professional reference checks on their own. Using a templated form that references can fill out and return by email helps to streamline the do-it-yourself process, though it may add days to the process and minimizes the interpersonal interaction between interviewers and references. Online reference checking services that rely on digital and social media sources may be fast, but may also be less personal or include unreliable information.
How employers can maintain compliance
Employers must comply with federal, state, and local guidelines during the background check process to ensure fairness for job candidates. A qualified screening provider can help support compliance, but employers should consider working with legal counsel to be aware of local laws and industry regulations that may impact your hiring process.
Here are a few legal considerations to keep in mind:
AVOID DISCRIMINATORY PRACTICES
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has provided guidance for employers to avoid discriminatory practices when conducting pre-employment background checks. Checking references only for candidates of a particular race, gender, or age, for example, could be construed as discriminatory. Additionally, employers should be mindful of how they use any information that comes from a professional reference check. For instance, if you learn a candidate is impaired in a way that relates to the responsibilities of the job, you may want to offer them an opportunity to demonstrate their ability to do the job or consider if other accommodations can be made.
FOLLOW THE FAIR CREDIT REPORTING ACT (FCRA)
Employers that work with a CRA, like GoodHire, to conduct professional reference checks must follow the requirements set forth in the federal FCRA. These requirements include providing written disclosure of your intent to conduct a background check (including reference checks) and obtaining written consent from the candidate before proceeding. If you decide not to hire a candidate based on information contained in a background report, you must also follow the adverse action process.
GoodHire supports FCRA compliance with automated workflows that help ensure candidates receive disclosure notices, sign (or e-sign) authorization forms, and can access copies of their reports and any adverse action notifications, if needed.
Get a professional reference check with GoodHire
Professional reference checks can give employers a unique perspective on real-life skills, experience, strengths, and personality—insight that can be difficult to glean from a resume or even an interview. Because checking references can be labor-intensive, working with a reference check service can give busy hiring managers the benefits of thorough, thoughtful reference checks without the time investment.
Working with a professional reference checking company, like GoodHire, can lighten your workload, help ensure a compliant process, and deliver fast, consistent results. Professional reference checks are among the many pre-employment background screening services that GoodHire offers to help employers make informed hiring decisions. Get started today.
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The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. We advise you to consult your own counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.