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06 Jan

4 Helpful Tips for Implementing Job Reference Sheets

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The recruitment process can be hectic for any business owner or HR team. You need to craft job postings, attract applicants,  and interview candidates to find the perfect fit. Businesses of all sizes have different resources they like to implement, including a job reference sheet.

If you aren’t familiar with job references, they are used to confirm the positive attributes you observed during an interview with a candidate and to verify details of  that person’s work history that was shared. A reference is typically a former colleague of your candidate.

The looming question about job reference sheets is whether they’re necessary. The simple answer is: It’s up to you.

Some employers love to use job references, and others want to be able to recruit a candidate with an open mind and without outside influence. However, if used properly, a job reference sheet can prove to be very helpful in your efforts to find the best fit for your company.

If you are one of the business owners who enjoys using references, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.

Only One Person Should Conduct Reference Checks: A Trained HR Professional

Anyone can pick up the phone and call a reference to hear about a candidate you’re recruiting. However, a trained HR professional will know what to ask and what to listen for.

Furthermore, an HR professional will be able to determine which bits of information are necessary to consider after speaking with a reference. If a hiring manager or would-be supervisor were to conduct the reference check, an unconscious bias may be created by information that doesn’t necessarily need to be considered.

Have the Candidate Provide Consent to Contact References

Using job reference sheets can be tricky sometimes, especially when you receive unpleasant feedback from the reference you contacted.

If you determine that a candidate is not a good fit based on information  provided by a reference, a candidate could make an argument for a defamation lawsuit. Your greatest defense is having the candidate sign an agreement giving you permission to speak to anyone on their job reference sheet. By doing so, they are acknowledging that a reference will speak truthfully during the conversation.

There are no federal laws that address what employers (past or present) can or can’t say during a reference check. However, many states do give some level of immunity to civil liability when providing information. A couple states that don’t provide immunity are New York and Massachusetts. However, the immunity can be lost if a candidate proves an employer knowingly or recklessly provided false or misleading information or acted with malicious intent.

Stay on Topic

If you are calling a candidate’s reference to confirm the information provided on a resume, try to not venture into other topics regarding the candidate. In some cases, a candidate could’ve had a negative relationship with colleagues at a previous company, but that doesn’t mean this situation will persist with your company.

If a candidate has the necessary skillset, speaks well, and seems to be a good culture fit, you shouldn’t let one person’s opinion of them deter you from considering them for the role. However, you should always document your conversations, in case a similar situation arises if the candidate gets the job.

Lean on Your PEO

If you need additional assistance with your reference checks, consider working with a professional employer organization (PEO). A PEO, like VensureHR, can provide the necessary resources you need to properly integrate job reference checks into your recruiting process. Additionally, a PEO can help lessen the burden of recruiting by providing you with recruiting guides, onboarding checklists, and evaluation templates for when an employee has reached certain stages of their tenure.


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