First, a note to those looking for and interviewing for jobs. Presume that your references will be verified, and maybe some others uncovered in the process. Read this article to learn more. Red flags are raised when individuals document one thing on their resume and another on their job application form. Your signature is the claim that ‘everything’ you’ve written is absolutely true. Remember that.
Employers – you must do your due diligence before making any job offers. Don’t rely on just a personal reference or recommendation. When someone is in your employ – you, and your company, are now responsible for their actions, in particular – those that could be found illegal (i.e. theft, harassment, violence).
At home, you may take your time evaluating a painter, a housekeeping service, a landscapers or others you hire to help you with your responsibilities as a homeowner. Not only do you evaluate costs, but you may look at reviews on Yelp, Angie’s List and other resources that track satisfaction rates and help buyers to beware.
So, if you are in a position of authority in your organization to hire people – due diligence needs to take place there as well.
There’s a term ‘backdoor references’ which I became all too familiar with many years ago – when a manager was screening people through mutual connections, without the individual even knowing they were a ‘candidate’ for the job. This is absolutely wrong.
Never check someone’s references without their prior consent. Always look at their documented authorization on their application to allow you (or not) to contact their ‘current’ employer. Imagine the predicament you could put someone in with their current position/company when this is a surprise inquiry. Worse, if you do not hire that individual (for any reason) and now they are seen in a different light in their current work situation.
Never ask for information that could be used to discriminate. If you don’t know what type of information that might be, you shouldn’t be in a position to make hiring decisions.
Always dig deeper on a negative reference. Could this have been a cultural or more in relation to performance?
In those cases where a negative history may overshadow a current more positive history – be sure to ask more clarifying questions…and don’t assume people stay the same. They can improve; life circumstances may impact their past performance – as well as their future.
As found through solid interview and recruiting practices – past behavior usually predicts future behavior.