Stop Wasting Your Time on Reference Checks

This is going to seem a bit controversial, especially coming from a professional recruiter, but hear me out: Reference checks are a waste of time for your job selection process.


First, consider reference checks with their previous employer. On the surface, these reference checks are great—they supposedly tell you what the company liked and didn’t like about their time managing your candidate.

But we all know that’s not what happens and that the reality is very different. For legal and liability reasons, few companies and hiring managers will give you any details unless they’re positive. You’ll get information about the candidate’s dates of employment, etc., but you’re not going to get a lot of insight into what kind of employee that person is. The value of the data is severely diminished.

Second, consider that other references are provided by the candidate; you’re not actively seeking them out yourself. So, naturally, they’re going to give you references who will say only good things. That doesn’t provide much value to you in understanding a candidate’s weaknesses, true capabilities, and suitability for your team.

And if they aren’t smart and savvy enough to provide you with references who only say good things, then you missed some key details and red flags in the interview process.

Which highlights the key point: Interviews, balanced with resumes, pre-hire projects, and other tools, are the most important part of the hiring process. Creating an interview process that is structured properly and asks the right questions at the right time will help you truly get to know the candidate in ways that references simply won’t. (Check out our blog for lots of advice on interviewing, interview questions, and other best practices.)

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