Category Archives : Recruitment Zone

How to conduct effective Reference Checks

Checking references before making an offer can actually save time, money, effort, and a lot of embarrassment. Reference checks allow you to ensure a successful hire – finding the most qualified person who is suited for the position.  By conducting reference checks you can verify the information already provided by the candidate and gain greater insights into the candidate’s skills, knowledge and abilities from someone who has actually observed the candidate perform.

Types of References

There are two types of references – professional and character.

Professional references are typically from a former employer who can vouch for the candidate’s conduct, character, working skill and knowledge during the period of the employment with them.  As well, provide examples of similar work that the candidate has completed and also verify the accomplishments that the candidate mentioned during the job interview.

On the other hand, character references are from people who are loyal to the candidate – friends, neighbors, family members or clergy. This reference usually describes the candidates’ positive personal attributes – integrity, motivation, and ability to balance work and life.

Prepare before conducting a reference check

  • Person conducting reference check must familiarize themselves thoroughly with the information the candidate has already provided, including the application, resume, and interview responses. Identify areas that require elaboration or verification.
  • Before making the calls, prepare a standard list of questions so that the same sets of question are asked, giving a consistent frame on which to base decisions. Questions regarding:

Dates of employment and title

Reason for leaving

Work ethic

Interpersonal skills>

Time management skills


Other strengths/weaknesses

Eligibility for re-hire (“Would you hire this person again?”)

  • All questions should be job-related. Do not ask questions during a reference check that are prohibited from being asked during an interview.

Who conducts reference check?

The hiring manager or the supervisor of the position is responsible for contacting the candidate’s references. The person who directly supervises the position being filled will have a better understanding of how to evaluate the answers to questions. If the reference check is assigned to HR personnel, they should be very familiar with the reference checking procedure and the target position. Whenever possible, avoid assigning reference checking to less experienced employees.

How to conduct reference check?

Telephone reference check is the most common way of conducting a reference check.

  • Check more than one professional and character reference.
  • Identify yourself, your title, organization name and tell them you are calling about a reference for a candidate you are considering.
  • Ask the reference provider if now is a good time to talk or whether they would rather schedule a specific time to conduct the reference. This gives the person time to move to a private office, if necessary.
  • Reassure the provider that that you have the consent from the applicant and that all responses will remain confidential and what he or she says will not dictate whether you hire the individual.
  • Give a brief description of the responsibilities, duties, and working environment of the position for which the candidate has applied. If the reference provider has a good understanding of what your candidate will be doing, then he/she will be able to give you better reference information.
  • Start the reference check by asking open-ended questions such as, ‘What duties did Kim perform’. This gets the provider talking.
  • Always ask why the applicant left employment, or restate the reason the applicant gave as to why he/she left employment and ask the reference provider to verify this. If the reference provider declines to answer a question, ask if someone else might be able to share information about the topic.
  • Give them time to answer your questions. Let them respond, and do not cut them off or put words in their mouth. Pay attention to what is said, and to what is not said.  If you encounter hesitations, try to rephrase the question to see if you can get an answer.
  • Be alert to unusual hesitations, very negative or very positive responses and consider the entire response you receive.
  • Conclude the reference check with this vague and open-ended question: “Would you consider Kim for this position?”  As they answer, don’t interrupt them; simply write down everything they say. Close the conversation by thanking them for their.

Evaluating the information you collect

  • Do not base a decision to hire solely on information received from a reference check. Carefully assess information you received to determine what is helpful and what may be unrelated to the job position.
  • Be aware of employers who speak too favourably or use faint praise to avoid giving a negative response about a candidate. If you receive negative information from a reference, evaluate it with caution and check the information against other reference statements. What may have been perceived as a weakness at a previous job may actually be a strength for your job.
  • All reference information must be kept confidential and should not be shared with the applicant.
  • Document the information gathered from your reference checks.

How to conduct an Interview

Hiring the right person for the right job starts with conducting an effective face-to-face job interview. The job interview is a powerful factor in the employee selection process in most organizations.  Background checking and checking references are also key factors in your hiring decisions. The job interview remains the tool you can use to get to know your candidate on a more personal basis.

Interviews can be structured or unstructured. Structured interviews ask all candidates a set of predetermined questions. It is one way to ensure that the same questions get asked to all of the candidates. It is often used to be able to show that the best person for the job was selected and that it was a fair interview for all of the candidates. Whilst unstructured ones are more informal and the interviewer can determine what they are going to ask the candidate, with this the conversation can flow freely.

Use the job interview tips below to improve your interviewing technique and avoid making hiring mistakes and thus reduce potential future expenses, such as recruitment and training, related to finding replacement workers. These will help you assess the skills, experience, and abilities of your potential employee to determine if that individual is the best fit for your job opening.

Selecting Candidates for the Job Interview

Each candidate CV/Resume should be reviewed and assessed against the job’s description and person specification to determine which candidates are most qualified for the position.

Preparing for the Job Interview

  • Schedule interviews within reasonable time limits.
  • Develop a schedule that does not adversely affect your other office responsibilities.
  • Notify co-workers that you are not to be interrupted for matters that can wait until after the interview.
  • Notify the candidate via a telephone call, inviting him or her to an interview. The invitation should state:
    • Title of the position
    • Time, location of the interview and directions.
    • Where the candidate should report.
    • Any information required at or prior to the interview, such as a resume.
    • Consequences of not responding or failure to appear for the interview.
  • The interview panel should review the job description prior to the interview, as well, familiarize themselves with a candidate’s resume and other paperwork before the interview. Not being familiar with a candidate’s information indicates that you are disorganized and poorly prepared.
  • Plan the interview in advance and prepare a list of standard questions to be used as a guide to ask each candidate. Make sure that all questions asked during the interview are job-related for e.g. candidate’s skills, abilities and past work performance.
  • Prepare a measurable criterion for analyzing and comparing the candidates.

Conducting the Job Interview

  • Set the tone by extending a warm welcome to each candidate and express your appreciation that they have come in for the interview.
  • Help candidates open up by introducing yourself and offering a brief overview of the company. Also, use this time to explain the interview procedure and then stick closely, but not rigidly, to the structure you prepared.
  • Immediately attempt to develop a rapport with the candidate by breaking the ice with a few simple opening questions, including information pertaining to degrees earned, past employers and other questions with simple answers.
  • Do not dominate the discussion by talking too much. Encourage the candidate to talk for the majority of the time, at least 80%.
  • Politely probe the candidate for information by asking open-ended questions that will provide insight into the candidate’s values and traits or ask structured questions that will require some thought on the part of the candidate.
  • Evaluate and seek to fully understand the candidate’s answers. If they do not provide you with specific results, probe further to get accurate answers. Listen actively and stay focused on the current question at hand.
  • Take notes so that your memory will be triggered when it’s time to review the interview. The more people you interview for the position, the more important note-taking becomes.
  • Study the candidate’s ‘body language’, that is non-verbal communications such as facial expressions, voice tone/pitch, body movements, etc.
  • Avoid criticism or giving signs of disapproval (including non-verbal ones). Ensure you maintain rapport with the candidate throughout the interview.

Closing the Job Interview

  • Ask the candidate if he/she has any further questions. Provide an opportunity to address any concerns or questions the candidate may have at the end of the interview.
  • Inform candidate of what is the next step in the hiring process, e.g. check references, formally notify outcome of application (indicate a time frame for this), etc.
  • Give the candidate an opportunity to turn the position down by asking if he/she is still interested in the position and find out when he/she would be available to start, if successful.
  • Thank the candidate for his or her time.

After the Job Interview

  • Organize and analyze the information immediately after the interview when memory is fresh.
  • Rate each candidate on each of the criteria immediately following the interview so as to narrow the field regarding who to consider hiring for the position.
  • Starting with your first choice, check references the candidate provided. References from former employers may be helpful in finding out about the candidate’s work habits and personal characteristics.

How to write a Job Description

A job description should be concise, clear and simply state what the job is in detail. It should include basic information that a potential employee should know before starting the job. Such as:

  • Job Title
  • Job Summary
  • Department/Location of the position
  • Key responsibilities
  • Job Requirements
  • Salary Range & Benefits
  • Contact Information

Job Title – Develop a title for the vacant position that accurately reflects the type of work the employee will perform (for example, receptionist, cashier, accounts clerk, etc). Be sure that the job title also reflects your organization’s culture.

Job Summary – This describes the general nature, level, purpose, and objective of the job. It serves as a broad introduction to the job, and should be about three or four sentences in length.

Department/Location of the positionInclude details on who the person would report to and where that person falls within the company’s structure.

Key responsibilities – List the primary functions of the job. Generally, this includes approximately 7 to 10 responsibilities. This section should be formatted as a list in order of importance, explaining the duties and responsibilities expected to be performed in the position.

Job RequirementsThis section is where you list out the minimum knowledge, skills, abilities, and attributes that are required to perform the job. Be sure to write the qualifications for the position you need, not the person who may currently be in the position.

Job Requirements would include:

  • Education – Minimum level of degree the job position requires such as high school diploma, associate/bachelor’s degree etc. If you are willing to substitute years of experience for education, state specifically how many years of related experience is an acceptable substitute for a degree or certification.
  • Experience – Minimum level of industry experience or directly related job experience required, such as three to five years of supervisory experience, five years project management experiences in the financial services industry.
  • Special skills – Other competencies or skills necessary to perform the job such as languages spoken and computer software capabilities.
  • Certifications State if there is a preference for candidates who have a certification related to the field.

Salary Range & Benefits – This section can be used to attract candidates. State the position’s salary range, benefits or job development opportunities such as training or travel.

Contact Information Include contact information so that potential applicants can apply and ask questions.

The job description should give a clear explanation of each of the factors mentioned above so candidates can determine whether or not they are qualified to apply for the position, as well as whether it appeals to their work preferences and requirements.

Your job description should be reviewed and approved by the hiring manager or human resources before it is advertised. Also, it is advisable that the job description is stored in a central location for periodic reviews and a signed copy placed in an employee’s personnel file for review and revision at appraisal time.

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