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The first instalment of our Founder Knowledge series. Every week, we’ll be learning from a Calm company founder about a specific topic they’re hot on.

Why you should always check a candidate’s references

Written By:
Noel Andrews
December 13, 2021



Welcome to the first instalment of our Founder Knowledge series.

Every week, we’ll be learning from a Calm company founder about a specific topic they’re hot on. We’re kicking off with Noel — he is the founder of JobRack.eu where he helps business owners hire amazing remote team members from Eastern Europe. He has over 15 years of experience in hiring and leadership which he is now using to ensure business owners get the best candidates without the stress of hiring.' Based in London, Noel can normally be found either working in one of the many WeWork locations around London or spending time with friends at one of his favourite rooftop cocktail bars. 

Don’t forget this vital step — it will massively increase your chances of hiring successfully

When you've reached the stage of making an offer to a candidate, you want them to get started as soon as possible — there’s tons of work to do, you’re desperate to get stuff off of your plate, and you’re excited about the impact they’re about to make in the company. But before you get going, don’t forget this vital step that will massively increase your chances of hiring successfully:

Referencing is when you ask a candidate's former employers (a few, brief) questions about your potential new hire. The goal is to find out what it’s like working with them and understand the reasons they’d recommend them. It’s often a useful  guide on how a person works — why wouldn’t you do it?

Make it clear from the very start of the hiring process that you're going to be collecting references. Mention it in your job posts when you are setting out the hiring process. This will also help to deter anyone who isn’t planning on being 100% honest from the beginning. 

Typically, these days asking for a reference is done over email. You could also schedule a short call if that’s more convenient to you or the person you’re asking. An email can look like this:

Hi there, 

Joanna has passed me your details as a potential reference from your experience working with her.

I'm currently offering her a role with the team here at JobRack as an Operations Assistant where she'll be responsible for a range of tasks including completing screening calls with candidates, administering our task management system and handling customer queries. 

It would be great if you could take a few moments to let me know what your experience was like working with Joanna, how well she'd adapt to the tasks above and if you would recommend working with her for this role?

Thanks in advance,


Owner, JobRack 

A personal note will normally yield a swift response. Getting the candidate to let them know you're going to be in touch also speeds up the process. 

With big companies, due to the number of employees, references are often purely factual: they confirm that the candidate did, indeed, work for them as and when they said they did.  Candidates will often include their managers as a personal reference — these are the people you can get more personal with and go into more detail.

Where candidates are hard workers, trustworthy, and have a track record of having done great work, you can expect a reference that is clearly enthusiastic about the candidate and highlighting why they'd happily work with them again.
If you get a reference back that is very short on detail, that just confirms they worked there but is light on opinion, then this might be cause for concern – they might not wish to bad mouth the candidate or they may just be super busy. If this happens, you want clarification. Ask if they'd be happy to jump on a quick call to discuss — not having a paper trail will sometimes make someone more comfortable talking honestly. 

You want to match a manager’s response to how a candidate feels about their previous manager to interpret the relationship as best as possible. In an interview with the candidate you can ask, ‘What would your previous manager say about working with you?’, ‘What would your team say about working with you?’

Asking for references takes just a few moments and, as a bonus, you may also get some great advice on how to make the most of working with a new colleague. Don't skip it!

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