Referees: How you can make a good call

By Andrew Hobbs on January 12th, 2018
  1. Employee Management
  2. Recruitment & Induction


CHECKING what previous managers and co-workers have to say about a potential employee is a common step in the recruitment process – so it is important you make the most of your opportunity.

Chapter R1 Recruitment of the Employment Law Practical Handbook suggests that you should try to speak with at least three referees to get a full understanding of the candidate’s ability to do the job.

But there will always be flaws in the process – as a recent article in The Conversation pointed out, candidates from privileged backgrounds will always be able to source better-connected referees than others.

Putting together a list of generic questions such as those on the below list may prove helpful as a base for reference checking – allowing the questions to change to reflect the technical requirements of each position.

You should also refer to the position description and the candidate’s resume while conducting the interview, in order to confirm the referee’s working relationship with the applicant and double- checking the dates of employment.

The Handbook suggests you might also wish to do the following during a reference check:

  • ask the referee to rate behavioural areas, such as:
    • team participation;
    • communication skills;
    • autonomy; and
    • adaptability;
  • include questions on those attributes that are important to your business or the role, such as:
    • attention to detail;
    • accuracy;
    • punctuality;
    • response to stressful situations; and
    • meeting performance standards, e.g. sales targets and deadlines;
  • check technical skills specific to the job requirements;
  • explain the position and ask for comments in regard to suitability;
  • ask the referee to verify the applicant’s reason for leaving their previous role; and
  • ask the referee whether they would re-employ the person if a suitable position was available.

For further information

The above list comes from Chapter R1 Recruitment from the Handbook mentioned above.

The chapter also suggests other types of pre-employment screening you may wish to undertake, including background and criminal record checks, skills tests and a medical assessment.

It also has tips on conducting a job interview, a step-by-step guide to writing a job advertisement and a template position description and job analysis questionnaire.

Click here to read the chapter, and many more like it, in the Employment Law Practical Handbook.


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