They’re commonly called reference checks and involve calling previous employers and asking them about an applicant’s employment history. But in the typical reference call, you aren’t really looking for a reference (or endorsement) for an applicant.
In the typical reference contact with a previous employer or previous supervisor, you are looking for:
- Factual information about the applicant.
- Verification of information given to you by an applicant.
- A judgment about an applicant’s suitability for the position being filled from a person who knows the applicant’s work history.
So a good reference check seeks more than an endorsement or opinion about an applicant. It’s seeking work-related information and work-related judgment. And to get this type of input from an applicant’s former employer or supervisor takes preparation before making the phone call or contact.
True, not all previous employers and supervisors will share significant information about a former employee. Some will refuse entirely and some will only verify dates of employment. But some will tell you what you need to know.
Here are two sample “Employment History Check” forms. Use these to help create your own form to use to obtain the information you need from former employers and supervisors. Consider having a professional background investigation service do these checks for you, or consider hiring new employees through a professional employer (temporary help or employee leasing) agency and have the agency do the checks for you.