Pre-employment screening in Australia usually mandates two reference checks from two different referees the candidate provides. Depending on the level of the role some organisations prefer three checks. Furthermore at times only one check is done (EG: When a candidate has worked at the company previously and is being brought back), but generally speaking two checks is the norm. The question then becomes; who should you as the hiring organisation insist are the referees?
In my experience as a reference specialist conducting reference checking services in Australia and the wider APAC region there are a number of things to consider when assessing the suitability of referees.
- No personal referees.
Personal references, IE: a referee who has never worked with the candidate directly whether they be a friend, university professor or character reference should be avoided completely. These types of referees are only going to provide a broad positive view of the candidate and will not be able to share any insight to the candidate’s capabilities in the workplace. For the purposes of pre-employment screening they are not appropriate. The only time these types of references should be considered is if the role is an entry level job and the candidate has yet to break into the workforce.
- Two referees the candidate has reported to directly.
Ideally the two referees should both be people the candidate has reported to directly and hopefully recently in a time sense. Candidates may be reluctant to give referees from their current role which is understandable, but should have no issues providing the details of their last two direct managers from their past roles. If the candidate has been at the same company for a very long time, a former manager who have since left the company would be appropriate for a reference check or alternatively if the candidate has changed role within the organisation they likely report to a different manager.
- The nature of the role.
Depending on the nature of the role the candidate is being considered for can alter pre-employment screening needs. Ideally one reference should be conducted with a direct manager at all times, but the second referee can be left open to interpretation. For example: if the candidate is being considered for an account management role conducting a reference check with a client who has had his or her account serviced by the candidate would be appropriate. If the role has an element of people management an individual who reported to the candidate directly may be appropriate for pre-employment screening and may be able to provide insight from a different point of view than a manager.
- When all else fails.
When direct managers, clients or subordinates are not available, co-workers may be considered. This situation should only be used as a last resort and is more than likely avoidable the vast majority of the time.
Finding the most appropriate people to act as referees will ensure that the pre employment screening process is utilised effectively. Always consider who you are going to speak to before making the call.