You’re watching payroll dollars like a hawk. Before committing to add a new person to your roster you interview them multiple times and believe you have identified your next superstar. Time to check references. Properly vetting your candidates can give you added confidence before signing off on your candidate’s offer letter

Originally the term ‘to vet’ was applied to horse-racing. A veterinarian was required to give a horse an ‘all-clear’ for health and readiness before lining up at the starting gate. Today we use the term to apply to the fact verification stage of a person’s background before making the decision to hire or engage their services. . If you’re feeling the tendency to skip this step, hold your horses.

Here is a quick list you can use to get the reference check portion rolling of your candidate vetting.

  • Ask your candidate for professional references and advise him or her that you will be contacting some/all of them. If you feel more comfortable having your candidate sign a document giving their written approval for you to contact their references, definitely do so.
  • When calling a candidate’s references, be polite, give the reason for your call and respect the person’s time. Make sure that the individual has sufficient time to devote to your call. They may need time to gather employment dates and salary history of your candidate and so it may be appropriate to schedule the call for a later time.
  • Verify the contact person’s position, title and relationship to your candidate. The reference should have been your candidate’s supervisor or director. What was your candidate’s job title, job responsibilities, dates of employment and salary history? Take detailed notes and keep them on file as part of the candidate’s record. Applicant Tracking Software is a must if you are hiring more than just a few people during the year. These tools can be invaluable and will allow digital storage of candidate information.
  • Just as you would design a list of interview questions for your candidate, design a list of questions for the candidates’ references. No spit-balling on reference calls. Gather your list of questions prior to contacting any individuals. Share the job description and ask questions that directly relate to the job requirements you are hiring for. Always ask the same questions on each of your reference calls and contact the same number of references for each candidate. Verify claims whenever you can. If your candidate states he or she managed a team, ask for the numbers. Obviously, there is a different level of experience managing 2 from managing hundreds. If your candidate’s resume claims he or she directly increased revenues by X%, get verification. If you find discrepancies, determine how you will handle them. ‘Fudging’ the numbers should give you reason to pause. If a person isn’t 100% truthful during the application process, will they be truthful once employed by you?
  • Ask for accomplishments during the candidate’s previous employment. Were they promoted while employed? How do they handle conflict and stress? What were their job strengths? Weaknesses? Would they be eligible for re-hire? How would the contact individual rate their overall job performance on a scale of 1-10?

Do not make job offers until all of the homework including references checks has been completed. If you feel a time-crunch, make an offer ‘pending successful completion of background checks’ and be extremely attentive to the process. Vet your candidate thoroughly and punctually. Great talent doesn’t stay on the market for long, be precise in your hiring and watch your corporate performance soar.

CVirtual is an executive and technical recruiting firm headquartered in Reno, NV. Contact us at (775) 200-0550 or at for your recruiting needs. You can follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.