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A guide to a successful reference check

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A guide to a successful reference check

​Reference checks are often the final step in a recruitment process, and a crucial one to get right both for the candidate and employer. For a prospective employer this is an opportunity to validate their impression of a candidate and gain further insight into what it would be like to work with this person. And for the candidate it’s the final opportunity to showcase their value and stand out from the competition.

As recruitment experts in the legal sector we have been involved in thousands of reference checks, we share our insights with you to ensure your next reference is as effective as possible.

Things to consider as a candidate:

• Choose a referee who can speak to your work. This is likely to be a current or previous manager or senior member of your team, and in some cases current or prior clients can be appropriate

• Always contact your referee prior to providing their contact information to a recruiter or prospective employer. This enables you to ask for their permission and gives you an opportunity to brief them on any specifics the prospective employer will want to cover off. It’s also a good chance to refresh their memory of projects and achievements that align with the role you're going for

• Identify anything negative that may crop up during this process and front it head on with the recruiter or prospective employer so they are aware and can advise the best approach for the situation.

How to be a good professional referee:

• When asked to be a referee you don’t have to say yes. Take your time to consider if you can serve the candidate as a positive reference and, if not, be upfront about what you are and are not willing to say about their performance. By providing a reference you are aligning your credibility with a candidates performance so you need to be comfortable in what you are saying

• Ensure to put your personal feelings aside and be objective throughout the process. The reference you give is going to directly impact the future employment prospects of the person, so be mindful of what you say and your tone. The level of enthusiasm you bring to the conversation often has a direct correlation to the impression the employer gets of the candidate

• Once asked to be a referee spend some time thinking about the candidates key achievements, strengths and weaknesses. Ask the candidate to refresh your memory if it has been some time and if there is anything specific (transactions, cases or projects) they would like you to touch on. You are likely to be asked specific details about dates of employment so it can often pay to look these up prior

• Answer the question being asked directly without being too brief, context is important in references, but it’s important to stay on point and not go off on a tangent. Using specific examples is a great way to showcase strengths

• If there are negatives raised provide wider context around the situation and whether you felt the candidate improved in these areas during their time at the firm or organisation

• When answering competency questions consider the level the candidate was operating at and how they performed in the role they were hired for.

Here at CoLegal our experienced recruiters are always happy to have a discussion with you about your references and provide advice on how to choose an effective referee.