Overcoming Obstacle in Reference Checking

Posted on by admin | in Background Check


Recent Human Resource studies reveal more than half of all job applicants misrepresent information on their resumes.
Reference checking is one of the best ways to determine the truth, and if done properly, can confirm the applicant’s credentials and previous accomplishments.
Reference information may be obtained from various sources including: previous employers, personal references, character references or educational references.

Why Use the Telephone

The ideal way to conduct such a reference check would be by personal visit, but since this often is not possible a telephone check is adequate.

Letters or forms rarely uncover negative information. People hesitate to write comments they might give either in person or by telephone.
Because of the stylized approach of form letters, the necessary information you are seeking may not be elicited.
A telephone check can be guided into different avenues depending on how the reference reacts to your questions. This provides much more flexibility than does a written response.

The Actual Phone Call

Call the person who had direct supervision over the applicant. Only attempt to get reference information; secondhand as a last resort.
For instance, do not first try to get information from someone in the Human Resources Office. The Human Resources Office or the Payroll Department can verify dates of employment and termination,
but they are not usually in a position to give valuable information regarding the job applicant’s former work habits, performance, personal habits, etc.

Employers typically view the resume/application as a factual document while applicants view it as a necessary evil needed to obtain a job.
With this contrasting view, and a highly competitive employment market, applicants may be tempted to conceal or misrepresent the facts in order to put
themselves in a favorable hiring position. History has shown, applicants will not reveal their shortcomings; it is the employer’s job
to find the facts and make a proper hiring decision. Now more than ever, is it vitally important to complete a proper background check for
critical childcare positions. Agency owners and families must complete a
thorough background investigation in order to eliminate applicants that will not be compatible with the family’s requirements.

Reference checking is a vital and important tool of any background investigation.
Many families prefer to contact references themselves so they can tailor their questions to the needs of the family.
Being the interviewer allows them to ask the specific questions that are vitally important to the family.

Due to recent litigation and downsizing, many large corporations have made it more difficult to the check the applicant’s references.
Some only confirm dates, position and salary. Some have reduced their HR departments and utilize automated reference checking companies.
When checking and verifying references this is only one of the many obstacles families/agencies may encounter, some others include:

The former company has gone out of business

Even though the company has gone out of business ask the applicant if they know where their former supervisor works or ask for another supervisor who is familiar with the applicant.
Even if a company goes out of business the ex-employees may be located.

The applicant is currently employed and does not want you to contact their current employer.

Even though this is common, ask the applicant for someone else to contact–possibly someone who has left the company: former co-workers, retirees,
clients, customers etc. in order to confirm the information.
An employer’s reference checking ability can extend to these parties if they are trusted not to reveal the information to the current employer.


Some applicants list self-employment to cover unemployment–contact the appropriate state agencies to confirm
the structure of the business (secretary of state, corporate records, LLC, sole proprietor, d.b.a.’s, partners, etc.)

Omitting certain employers

When interviewing a reference one may find out the applicant has omitted certain employers from their resume.
This may or may not be significant, however investigate a little further to find out why it was left out.

Coaching certain reference or bogus references

When contacting personal references some may be coached, rehearsed or unreachable. Always ask if there is anyone else that is would be willing to provide
information about the applicant. It is important to contact references developed from the investigation and not exclusively the references listed on the resume.

Supervisor won’t return calls

Send a written request to the HR Director or contact another supervisor. Written requests have a low return rate but it is worth the effort.
If the supervisor/reference is working non-business hours ask them to leave a recorded message confirming the information.
A response is better than no response.

Educational Records

A high percentage of applicants falsify their education achievements. A majority of schools will only confirm dates of attendance and degree.
Depending on the school’s policy, some will verify information over the phone, via fax or mail. Some institutions have partnered with automated verification services,
similar to the automated employment verifications. (see section on verifying Education records)

Reference checking can be tedious and at times frustrating. Sometimes the interviewer/investigator has to be creative in order to confirm the provided information.
Reference checking is an excellent tool and should be one of many inquires in order to complete a thorough background check.

Phone Cell Phone or Landline

An applicant may provide a friends contact number to provide reference verification.
When this occurs, the friend is usually very general in terms of their responses.
If you suspect a “coached or bogus” reference ask specific questions such as: Names of the children the applicant cared for or the street the employer was on.
Delays in easy answers may signal a bogus reference. Also ask for landline numbers of previous employers.
To determine if a number is not a cell number. Go to www.Fonfinder.com and type in the number prefix and the first three digits of the number.
This will tell you which telco operates the number and whether or not it’s a landline or cell.
Use caution with the site as recently ported numbers may no accurately reflect the status of the telephone number.


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