6 steps to carry out a good reference check in IT

Here is how you get value from the reference check of a developer

Reference check IT

In this article we give you a step-by-step guide on how to contact the references of the candidates you are considering hiring . In this way, you can be sure that you get the most out of the minutes for insight of the candidates previous work experience. Also read about unknown gold mines in a reference

1. Preparations

After you and your colleagues have conducted interviews with the candidate, you have become familiar with both the professional and the personal aspects of the candidate. After this, you should discuss among yourselves what impressions you are left with. Use this information and these impressions to become aware of what you want to explore more about from a third party.

Create a conversation guide that covers the topics that will require the most attention. Is there information or perceptions that the candidate has provided that seem to be inconsistent? Formulate open questions that give the reference the opportunity to offer their point of view on the matter. Limit the conversation guide so that the conversation is not rushed and so the reference has time to answer for himself. If the situation becomes stressful, the reference will give you simple answers that offer little new information.

2. The Person

The first step is really to find out who you want to talk to. The candidate may have provided some references themselves, but if you feel that these are not able to answer the questions you need answers to, then ask the candidate if there is anyone else you can turn to.

Regardless of who you are going to talk to, you should send a message to the reference to find a time that suits them. In this way, the reference can have time in advance to reflect on what impression it will give, it also sets up the conversation so it is not rushed.  A common mistake is to call without warning, which makes the conversation less productive and more open to random or overly polite responses.

3. Introduction

Although the reference is hopefully prepared for you to call, it is still important that you introduce yourself and the company you work for. Tell a little about the company and what you work on, before you go on to tell about the position you are advertising. "We need a person who is good at X because we want to achieve Y" is a good starting point to ensure that you also keep this part concise.

When you talk about the recruitment process you are doing, it can be helpful to refer to the candidate neutrally. If you come across as skeptical of the candidate, it is easy for the reference to go defensive when they talk about the candidate. If you seem too positive, it will be difficult for the reference person to disagree with your experience of the candidate. Find a good balance.

After you have given the reference an introduction, you should give the reference the opportunity to acclimatize . Ask simple questions, which for example revolves around the relationship between the reference and the candidate: What working relationship did they have, how long did they work together and what areas of responsibility did the reference overlook when they worked together.

4. Conversation

After you have talked a little about the practicalities, you can start to move the conversation towards the topics that you have mapped out in your conversation guide. Ask open, but not vague, questions.

The order in which you choose to ask the questions is not necessarily that important, as long as you manage to maintain a certain flow when you talk together. Remember that the reference is a conversation, not a survey. You will get the most honest answers by asking good follow-up questions, paying attention to details and by giving the reference plenty of time to answer the questions.

Another tip is to use information you have acquired from the interviews to formulate your questions: “X worked a lot on the development of their database. Can you say more about X's role during this development?”

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5. Examples

Anecdotes or examples can provide more insight than general thoughts and reflections about the candidate's characteristics. But the reference will think it is difficult to come up with good examples if you do not ask or help them with a context. So remember to ask the reference to elaborate on their answers with examples where appropriate.

If you are going to hire someone who will have managerial responsibilities, you can e.g. ask the reference: “X was a large part of the team that worked on project X. Did X take any initiative or a leadership role during the work on the project? Give examples”.

6. Conclusion

After you have gone through the topics you wanted to talk about, you should give the reference an opportunity to either clarify or elaborate freely. Give the reference a summary of your interpretation of the reference's impression and ask if there is anything that should be added.

Conclude by thanking the reference for their time and honesty. Hopefully, you will be left with new information and a good assessment basis for the employment. A good reference check has also yielded tips on how you can make both training and the working environment better for the candidate.

These were 6 simple steps for reference checking. Do not hesitate to get in touch if there is anything you are wondering about.  We at WA.works want you to have good recruitment experiences! Good luck with your candidate search🥇


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WA.works er en rekrutteringsplattform som er skreddersydd for IT-bransjen og den høye etterspørselen etter teknologer. Plattformen har snudd opp ned på den tradisjonelle ansettelsesprosessen ved å fokusere mer på kandidatjakt enn jobbjakt, og dermed gjort det enkelt for bedrifter å headhunte utviklere, designere, prosjektledere og andre IT-roller.

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