The Importance of Reference Checking

Angela Pitts

As I was writing my post last week I was reminded of a time that reference checking not only saved me from making a potential bad hire, but also may have protected my company from hiring someone who had ill intentions.

While managing the staffing service I welcomed the opportunity to speak with others who had worked in staffing, regardless if they wanted to continue working in the industry.  Some of my best hires came from other staffing services from out of state.  When my receptionist came back one sunny summer afternoon with a resume of a former staffing specialist I was thrilled!  We had been growing at a nice rate and could use another staffing specialist or even a direct hire recruiter.  I came up to the front and asked her if she had time to meet with me; she did.

First Impression

My first impression was she was perfect in every way!  She had past staffing experience, well spoken, and seemed to have the kind of personality that would fit with the rest of the team.  I was trying hard not to be too excited about all the possibilities this person could bring to our team.  She had worked in a smaller firm, but had exposure to not only staffing but payroll as well.    There were a few “odd” things that she mentioned in her interview, but due to my excitement of having someone who knew the industry I brushed them aside.  I broke one of the major rules of interviewing; don’t make an impression within the first few minutes.  Ask questions, and then ask more questions.  Keep asking until you can qualify your gut feeling (good or bad) with past experiences and behaviors.

I invited her to come back later that week and meet with some of my other staff members.  She impressed them during the interview as well.  After she left I asked them if they had any reservations about bringing her onto the team.  I worked with a group of well seasoned professionals that did a great job interviewing candidates and placing them in the right jobs.  Very seldom did we have a client that called with a complaint about who was sent to fill their position.

I couldn’t shake a few of the things she had said during our interview, which was information that I wouldn’t have even asked due to its nature, but it was out there none the less.

Check the Ref

As part of our hiring process for both internal and external employees, I always checked references.  I called her first reference.  Prior to working for the staffing firm she had worked for a sports team.  The number that she listed was a pager.  At the time most people had moved away from pagers to cell phones.  I left my number and moved on to the next reference; a staffing company.  The number I called was a personal number and went to a voicemail, and the voice sounded very familiar.  I called her last reference, the latest staffing company that she had worked at.  I introduced myself to the receptionist and told her the nature of my call.  She immediately put me through to the owner.  I went into a quick introduction as to the nature of my call when he stopped me short.  He proceeded to tell me how he wished that he would have checked her reference prior to hiring her.  She and her boyfriend had scammed him out of several thousand dollars by creating fake job orders, fake employees and running real checks from them.  He let me know this was not the first time she had done this and he was currently working with law enforcement and another staffing service in prosecuting her, but she had skipped town.  He then volunteered the name of the boyfriend, who was listed as her first reference for the sports team.  I realized where I had heard the voice, the pager message and the first number for the staffing firm where both his!  I looked up the main number for the other staffing service and asked to speak to the name she listed on the reference; no one with that name had ever worked there.  I asked to speak with the manager.  The manager would only verify that she did work there and she would not be eligible for rehire.

The next day I received a call from the sheriff of the county she was from asking for her contact information that she had provided.

Hopefully none of you will have an experience like this, but it does illustrate the importance of checking references.  Take the time to check references not only on your internal employees, but your temporary employees as well!

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