Understanding Everything That Is Included in a Reference Check

What Employers Will Ask Your References

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Many employers check references as part of the hiring process. A reference check is when an employer contacts a job applicant’s previous employers, schools, colleges, and other sources to learn more about his or her employment history, educational background, and qualifications for a job.

What Is Included in a Reference Check?

A reference check can include several steps. The employer could simply verify dates of employment and job titles and dates of attendance at college and the degree attained. An in-depth reference check will involve talking to references to gain insight into an applicant’s skills, qualifications, and abilities to do the job.

The employer wants to confirm that you have the employment history and qualifications you have stated on your resume or job application. The company also wants to know if you have the right skills for the job and if you will fit in well with the organization.

Permission for Reference Checks

An employer will need your permission to conduct a credit check or use a third party to check you out. Your permission also may be required for your school transcripts or other educational information to be released.

Employer best practices include asking for permission prior to talking to anyone about you. Most companies notify candidates that they can expect to have references checked, and you may be asked to sign a form that gives consent for a reference check.

Some states have laws regulating consent requirements and what an employer can ask about former employees. Some of these laws provide employer protections and immunity from liability for disclosing employee information.

However, many states don’t require companies to get your permission except when you have asked them not to contact your current employer. In addition, the organization can check with people other than those on the list of references you may have provided them. It’s permissible to talk to anyone who may be able to share information on your job qualifications.

What Is Back-Door Reference Checking?

Back-door reference checking is when an employer checks with people you don’t list as a reference. Those people could be former colleagues or managers or other sources the company finds who can speak to your qualifications. The same laws and protections, for both applicants and employers, apply.

When Reference Checks Are Conducted

In most cases, references are checked prior to an employer offering a job. Some employers will ask for references to be submitted with a job application. In that case, your references could be contacted before you are even considered for an interview. Based on the results of the reference check, you may or may not be invited to interview.

When you give someone’s name as a reference, be sure to let that person know to expect a call. Tell about the job you’re applying for so that the reference is prepared to discuss why you would be a good prospect for the job.