What is included in an employment reference check?

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Zinc Team
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An employment reference check is where a hiring manager reaches out to the candidate's previous employers or someone who knows them in a professional capacity to gather information about their work history, performance, and overall suitability for the job.

Employers gain a lot of information about a candidate from their CV and during an interview, but speaking to the candidate’s past managers and colleagues can create a fuller picture and help the employer decide if the candidate is the right fit for the position and the company.

What is included in an employment reference check? This depends on the type of work the job requires, the seniority of the role as well as the preferences of the hiring manager. In this blog post, we will delve into what is typically included in an employment reference check, shedding light on its importance and the information it can provide.

1. Gaining permission to collect the reference

The first step when doing an employment reference check is getting consent from the candidate for their references to be collected. Reference checks entail personal information about a candidate, so in line with GDPR candidates need to provide consent before referees can be contacted. This also starts the relationship between candidate and prospective employer in a transparent, open and fair manner.

2. Contacting the candidate’s referees

Employers now need to get in contact with the candidate’s referees. The traditional way of contacting referees is over the phone or by email. This can take up precious time for both the employer and the referee, often taking up to 28 working days to complete. 

Today there are software solutions like Zinc that automate reference checks for you. By utilising third-party software the candidate simply enters the contact details of their referees and Zinc then contacts the referee and asks them to fill out a short online form verifying the candidate’s employment and then gives a few optional questions about the candidate’s attributes, values and ideal working environment. Over 90% of references collected with Zinc are returned within three days, drastically reducing turnaround time.

Contacting references with Zinc

3. Verifying previous work experience

One of the primary purposes of an employment reference check is to verify the candidate's employment history. This includes confirming the dates of employment, job titles held, and the roles and responsibilities they undertook. It helps employers assess whether the candidate's stated work experience aligns with the information provided on their resume. If this is all the information that employers require, this will be the end of the reference check.

Through Zinc, you can verify up to 5 years of employment history in minutes thanks to our integration with HMRC. Utilising this software is a great way to decrease your time to hire and speed up this step in the employment checking process. 

4. Checking the candidate has the right skills

Employers will often seek feedback on the candidate's past performance during an employment reference check. This includes evaluating skills, work ethic, ability to meet deadlines, and overall performance. Hiring managers may ask similar questions to the interview questions such as ‘What are the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses?’ By doing so, employers can gain insight into the candidate's work ethic and determine if they possess the skills and qualities for the position. 

5. Checking for culture fit

Culture fit is the DNA of any company, including attitudes, values and beliefs upheld by everyone working there. It’s an important aspect of any hire which is why this should always be included in an employment reference check.  

Hiring managers should always enquire about the candidate's values and attitudes. This can be achieved by asking questions about the candidate’s work ethic, how they may respond to certain scenarios and what environments they thrive in.

Questions to check for culture fit in background checks

6. Checking any red flags

If anything during the interview raised cause for concern about the candidate, the employer may use the reference check as an opportunity to explore any issues. This is not usually to catch the candidate out, but it can help them make an informed decision whether the candidate would be suited to the role or not.

For example, if the role requires remote work but the candidate doesn’t have any experience, this may be something they could ask about during the reference check. Likewise, if the candidate has never had any managerial or project management duties, the employer may want to ask the referee about the candidate’s suitability for these tasks.

Employment reference checks are the secret ingredient to nailing your new hires. Being thorough in conducting reference checks doesn’t need to take a lot of time or effort. Automated reference-checking solutions like Zinc streamline your hiring process and keep you diligent in your choices. 

Unified references

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