While checking references does have its downsides, most HR professionals will advise employers to do it and do it thoroughly. Here are some tips for using references for the greatest benefit.
Make a call — It may be tempting to fire off an email to each reference with some simple verification questions, but to get the most out of a reference check, it’s important to call. Being able to ask open-ended questions is the only way to genuinely verify that what an applicant said in your interview matches up with what his or her job was truly like.
Make references the tipping point — If you’ve got two great applicants, references are a good way to make that final decision. If one applicant only gets a mediocre response from their references, then maybe that person isn’t really the right candidate for the job.
Follow up — Reference checks may not lead to a wealth of new information for a hiring manager, but if they do, it’s important to follow up with the applicant. Maybe there is a discrepancy that can be easily explained or maybe a glowing review leaves you with more questions. Either way, it’s important that applicants get a chance to respond before you make that final decision.