After interviews have taken place you will want to take a few more steps before you decide whether to make an offer to one of the job candidates you have for a vacancy. You may want to ask candidates to complete assessments or you may want to get the perspectives of their former colleagues before you make a decision.
Additional steps after initial interviews or between rounds of interviews could include:
- Tests or assessments.
- Practical exercises like a business case or even a presentation to be made to some senior leaders or experts at your company.
- Reference checking with former colleagues, former direct reports or former supervisors of the candidate(s).
The (download) template I am sharing below contains a few questions to help you understand whether one candidate may be preferred compared to another given their experiences and approaches.
Background checks are used in some countries but can be harder to obtain in countries or regions where data and privacy protection laws exist. In most cases, criminal background and/or financial history information can only be obtained if the prospective employer can show a direct link between the requirements of the role and the information it wishes to obtain. Reference checks are typically easier to conduct in most countries, but be mindful of the kinds of information that you would be reasonably able to obtain given local laws.
Be mindful to:
- Ensure that you notify any impacted job candidates (i.e. in areas such as Europe) about the data you wish to obtain and how you would process this data to avoid the risk of non-compliance. Job candidates need to know this at the start of the process and they must (actively) agree with your proposal for collecting data before you are able to proceed.
- Ensure that all data obtained during the recruitment process is archived or destroyed after the process has been completed for a specific vacancy. All HR personnel who deal with such data would need to understand that this also includes any data that have been saved to their individual computers during the process.
- Make sure the data you wish to obtain is relevant to the hiring decisions you wish to make. And make sure that those who would speak with candidates or possible referees can explain the connection.
Assuming that you have taken all precautions to ensure you are not incurring any risks with your planned reference checking approach, use the questions you have selected (the download template above can help) when you contact the list of referees provided by the job candidate.
You can use the template in a few ways:
- Set up a time to talk to each referee via phone or Skype and go through the questions, capturing his or her responses.
- Send each referee a form and ask him/her to complete it and return it to you – typically via email. Be aware that this approach does not offer you much opportunity to ask further questions to clarify without creating a few extra emails to the original string.
- Set up the questions as an online survey (for example using www.surveymonkey.com) and share the link with referees. Note that data interpretation may be an issue here – not knowing what a referee meant by a specific score or comment. This also means you would have to contact referees again to clarify feedback. One way to improve data interpretation is to build in comment fields to explain scores.
Finally, it is important to understand that a reference check is just one of the data points that could support decision-making related to hiring the best candidate for the vacancy.
Feedback may be incomplete for a number of reasons:
- The referee wishes to avoid any unpleasant situation with the former employee and wishes to be cautious in his/her responses.
- There may be laws in the country which specifies what referees can or should say and what they cannot comment on.
- The previous company may have clear policies about what can be shared by referees, which may be limited to job title and years of employment at the company.
Getting feedback from those who previously worked with a job candidate can still be valuable – understanding how the candidate’s knowledge or work methods would fit in with the job requirements or the company culture. For this reason, it can be good to get more perspectives. Just be aware of possible risks given the changing legal environment as you obtain feedback from referees.