Reference check : 5 mistakes to avoid

While reference checks have become a must in the recruitment […]

While reference checks have become a must in the recruitment process, there are certain rules to follow when doing it. Discover the 5 mistakes to avoid when taking references.

Of course, some of the basic questions are the same every time you take a reference, but the most important thing is beyond these. What are your doubts or concerns about the candidate? What skills are essential to the position that you need to verify in the candidate? We’re talking about technical skills here, but also behavioural skills, which are just as important in a candidate.

Clearly explain to each person you are talking to what is at stake in the position in question. With the purpose of the job in mind, this contact will be able to better evaluate the suitability of the candidate for the position, and inform you, highlighting certain strengths or weaknesses of the candidate.

Always ask open-ended questions to the person you are talking to. This way, they will be able to express themselves in their own words (instead of just answering “yes” or “no”). The worst thing you can do is to unintentionally direct your interviewee, and thus bias the whole referral process.

Pay attention to non-verbal communication, even from a distance. Take note of hesitations, silences, pauses, and sighs as you ask your questions. Conducting a reference check also requires the ability to read between the lines.

Keep in mind all the issues involved in taking references. Indeed, when recruiting, you are not only supposed to verify that the candidate is the right person for the job. You should also make sure that your company will be a good fit for them. The reason is simple: a candidate who doesn’t feel like he or she belongs in your company will have little chance of succeeding, or of excelling. In this sense, assessing the candidate’s culture-fit is essential. Be sure to include a few questions on this subject in your reference check.

Taking references: what does French law say?

While taking references is obviously useful, it is a process that is strictly regulated by the French Labour Code. Thus, there are rules that must be respected when contacting a candidate’s former employers.

In other words, it is absolutely not legal to be indiscreet about certain private matters (family situation, state of health, age, religious beliefs, etc.).

But that’s not all: the company taking references must also be completely transparent about the process that will be used. Article L1221-9 of the French Labour Code is quite clear on the subject: “No information concerning a job applicant personally may be collected by a device that has not been brought to his or her attention beforehand.”

If you engage in illegal reference taking, because without authorisation, the candidate is entitled to report you to the CNIL or take you to an employment tribunal.

You now know all the secrets of effective reference check!

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