By Cynthia Wright
When the subject of reference checks comes up, the question I hear most often is: "What is the difference between reference checks and background checks?"
Reference checks are typically done by either Human Resources or the manager who has the open job. A background check is usually done by a third party background check company who may: check felony records, confirm college and university degrees, and/or perform motor vehicle and credit checks, if relevant to the type of position being filled.
There are five common reference check areas that many Human Resources departments should know about.
1. Job Responsibilities
Obviously, employers want to know if the job responsibilities the candidate performed in prior roles are a good fit for the position in question. Much of this information is discussed during the interview. Reference checks merely confirm this information.
2. Getting Along Well with Others
This is an important hiring component. Let's assume one candidate has 100 percent of the skills needed to perform the job but can't get along with others; while another candidate has 75 percent of the skills and gets along great with the team. Which person do you hire? The answer is the person with 75 percent of the skills who gets along well and fits in. You can train a person on the 25 percent of the skills they are lacking, but it's difficult, if not impossible, to make effective change when someone's personality doesn't meld well with the team.
3. Interacting with the Public and Customers
If the open position is one that deals with the public, a prospective employer needs to find out how the candidate handles customers, what their customer approach is, and how (if applicable) they bring a negative situation to a positive outcome.
4. Handling Frustrating Situations
This is a key area, especially if the candidate will be dealing with challenging situations and irate customers. In the case of a Call Center Manager, for instance, the ability to handle frustrating situations is critical, especially since they will be handling calls that are escalated by a Customer Service Representative due to an irate customer.
5. Communications Skills
Speaking and writing communications skills are very important in a world where emailing is often the main form of communication. Again, if the position being filled is one where a person needs to deal with the public, deliver speeches in front of groups, or be responsible for communicating information either verbally or in writing, it is important for employers to find this out during the initial hiring process.
Verifying these five areas with each of a candidate's references will go a long way to ensuring that you are hiring the right person for the job.