A New Spin on Checking References

I am not an attorney and this tip is not to be construed as legal advice.

This tip may not be a new spin, but it’s an approach that more businesses are taking now.

When you review a candidate’s résumé, you’ll see the different companies she’s worked for and the different positions she’s held.

A good number of us will call a few of those companies and get some feedback from one or more of the following:

  • The owner of the company if it’s a fairly small business
  • The person’s supervisor or manager at the previous company
  • Someone in Human Resources who may or may not provide very much information

But there’s another option here.

Interview a few of your candidates previous co-workers.

This could be a fertile area for information.

How do you locate the names of previous co-workers? There are several ways to go about this:

  • You could ask the candidate directly. This, however, might only get you a few close friends of the candidate who may give a glowing report despite the actual scene
  • You could ask the candidate’s previous supervisor or manager if he wouldn’t mind giving you a couple of names of co-workers so that you could ask a couple of questions
  • You could ask someone in HR
  • And you could ask the owner

However you manage it, you’ll likely have a few people to call.

How should this interview go?

You could start off with: “Hello Alice, a co-worker of yours, John Magillacutty is applying for a job here at Acme Enterprises. Would you mind answering a couple of questions about him?”

I would think more times than not, Alice will be willing to speak with you.

Here are few possible questions to ask:

“What were your observations of John’s performance?

“What was your least favorite thing about working with John?

“What do you feel is John’s best attribute?”

If your candidate needs hard skills, e.g. computer programming or transmission repair, you could ask specific questions about their skills.

Yes, it’s possible you might run into a co-worker here and there who might have sour grapes regarding your candidate and that can taint what they tell you.

But it’s all data for you to take in and evaluate.

You may get some very compelling insights from these interviews. On the positive side and on the negative side. Either way, you’re doing more due diligence and that can’t hurt.

As the law varies in each area, please check with an attorney to ensure you are applying these tips within the law.

Our three minute video will help you hire the right people.

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