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A Guide To Completing An Employee Reference Check

Hiring someone new is always an exciting time, but let’s face it, choosing the right candidate can also be a bit of a headache. The hiring process involves many hidden costs, adding to the challenge of ensuring that the person you choose is the right fit for your company. An essential way to reduce the risk of a bad hire is conducting thorough employee reference checks.

What is a Reference Check?

A reference check involves contacting previous employers of a job candidate to verify their job performance and suitability for the position they're applying for. This process helps employers gain insights from someone who has worked with the candidate in a professional setting. Reference checks are crucial because they provide a great perspective on a candidate's work ethic, abilities, and overall character.

Legal Considerations in Australia

Before getting into the specifics of reference checks, it’s important to understand the legal framework surrounding them in Australia. Employers must be aware of privacy laws and ensure that they have the candidate's consent to contact their references. Questions should be job-related and non-discriminatory. It's illegal to ask about a candidate’s race, religion, sexual orientation, or other personal matters not directly related to their job performance.

Crafting Effective Reference Check Questions

Getting the most out of reference checks starts with asking the right questions. It’s important to remember that you should only reach out to references with the candidate's permission. 

Here are some key questions that can help you gather a meaningful understanding of your potential hire/s:

  • Could you confirm the dates of the candidate's employment and their job title? This helps ensure their resume accuracy.
  • What were the candidate’s main responsibilities? Does this align with what they told you?
  • How did they handle pressure and stressful situations? Can you give an example?
  • Could you rate the quality of their work and possibly elaborate on areas where they excelled or needed improvement?
  • Why did the candidate leave your organisation? Are there any notable circumstances surrounding their departure?
  • Would you rehire this person? If not, can you share why?

These questions aim to spark discussions that offer deeper insights into a candidate’s professional behaviour and performance. Remember, the goal here is to paint a vivid picture of what it’s like to work with this person day-to-day. How do they handle challenges? What motivates them? These are all important questions to understand when hiring a new person.

If negative feedback arises, it’s important to disclose what your background check revealed. If there’s a reasonable explanation, ensure you carefully consider it.

Timing the Job Offer

A common question among employers is how long after completing a reference check they should wait before extending a job offer. While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, it’s generally advisable to complete all background checks and reference checks before making an offer. This ensures that you have all of the information needed to make a well-informed hiring decision. Typically, if reference checks start immediately, the entire process can be completed within a few days to a week.

Reference checks are an essential part of the recruitment process. They not only validate the information provided by the candidate but also offer insights into how they perform in the workplace. By understanding what reference checks entail, knowing the legal boundaries, asking the right questions, and timing your job offers appropriately, you can improve your chances of hiring the right person for the job. Good luck!