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Many companies believe reference checks are outdated, but companies still rely on them to make the final determination of whether they’ll extend an offer or move on to alternative candidates. David Reischer, Esq., real estate attorney and CEO of LegalAdvice, says, when done right, reference checks “should be a way to gain extra information and insight into a potential candidate’s performance and ability” outside of the perfunctory questions. He adds that the goal is to ask references specific questions that educate the employer on whether the candidate is the right fit. Kraig Martin of Storage Vault says face-to-face meetings with references makes it less likely that they will lie and provides the reference with an opportunity to expand on their written answers. Employers gain an advantage by getting a holistic view of the employees’ personality, skills, knowledge and experience. At the outset, employers should outline what types of references they are looking for from job candidates. Professional references can provide greater managerial insight than a family member or friend. Gaining an understanding of cultural fit before extending an offer is crucial in understanding whether a candidate could be toxic or adaptable and like-minded. References are the best people to provide insight into the type of culture that’s best suited to the candidate based on their peer perspective. Human resources (HR) staff could ask about what aspects of a previous work culture were a good fit and which were a poor fit for the candidate; how the reference and the potential employee worked together collaboratively; and what the job candidate’s working relationship was like with their colleagues? HR also needs to determine what the job candidate’s working style is to help manage their productivity, which is when a reference’s responses to how a potential candidate handled a certain situation can be revealing. Asking behavioral interview questions helps identify patterns in behavior and thought processes when encountering various situations. HR could ask references about a job candidate’s key motivators, incentives that kept them productive and how managers could have helped the candidate advance their career more quickly.

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