Blog Overview Chronicles Everything HRs ought to know about reference checks in BGV

Everything HRs ought to know about reference checks in BGV

Everything HRs ought to know about reference checks in BGV

On Google, the more a result is clicked on, the higher it ranks. And while searching for incidents around ‘fake work history’, I came across this result on the first page


Yes, there are professional services to fake job history. And clearly, candidates aren’t shying away from it. 

That said, verifying your candidate’s past employment before hiring them any is basic hygiene. 

There are two overlapping parts to this: employment verification and reference check.

What is an employment check?

Employment verification is the process of verifying information related to a candidate’s past job(s). It makes sure that the candidate hasn’t faked joining and leaving dates, fabricated job titles, lied about salary, or covered gaps in employment. 

What is a reference check?

This one’s a step ahead of employment verification and a tricky one. Performing a reference check means contacting a referee who can verify or provide information about a candidate.

It’s tricky because a reference check is more than just verifying credentials. It’s about you (the recruiting party) getting to know more about a candidate’s skills, performance, experience, strengths, weaknesses, and conduct. This information is provided by his/her referee

School professors, coworkers, direct managers, and other employees who have worked closely with the candidate make good professional referees.

Reference check in the selection process

After making an offer to the prospective candidates, the recruiting company initiates their background verification

To begin with a reference check, the recruiting company or their BGV vendor (the verifier) gets in touch with the referee(s) via an email or a phone call. Since the check is time-consuming, both parties pick a good time to have a conversation about the candidate. 

During the course of their conversation, the verifier tries to understand whether or not the candidate is a good fit for the role and the company. The verifier also aims at confirming all the information mentioned by the candidate in his/her CV or during the interview.  

Here’s how your candidates can provide references with their job applications.

How to have an effective conversation with the referee

When you get in touch with your candidate’s referee, you only have one shot at it. One-shot to know all that you want to about the candidate. Here are some tips to get the most out of your conversation with the referee.

1. Involve the interview team: 

Ask the interview panel about what they wish to know about the candidate. Do they have any doubts? Do they have any concerns that they wish to have a follow-up or feedback on? 

Using these inputs during your conversation with the referee will help you gain effective insights and information about the candidate. 

2. Talk about the job role you’re hiring for and ask questions regarding the same: 

Start by saying, “ We are looking for a candidate to fill X position. To succeed in the role, he/ she should have A, B, and C skills.” Further, allow the referee to think about how the candidate makes a good fit for the role. This way is more effective than you asking “Do you think the candidate can perform A, B, and C?”. As, such questions turn the conversation into an interrogation, which is proven to deliver poor insights. 

3. Ask open-ended and specific questions during your reference check: 

Questions like “How is the candidate at work?” will get you vague answers like “He’s great”. Instead, try asking for particular instances where the candidate performed well. It can be a project, an escalated situation, or a value-add task. You may mention experiences that the candidate shared during the interview and get more insights about the same.

Questions to ask during a reference check 

Here are some questions that will help you frame your conversation with the referee. 

(P.S.: ‘You’ in the below questions pertains to the ‘referee’)

  1. Can you describe how you and Betty (the candidate) worked together?
  2. Did Betty show noticeable achievement during her tenure? If so, can you tell me more about it? 
  3. For this role, a candidate needs to have A, B, and C skills. How would you describe Betty regarding each of these?
  4. What do you think are Betty’s strengths? Can you share more about where you could note these strengths? 
  5. What are the areas that you think Betty needs help in during the first 90 days of her job?
  6. Is Betty good at communicating and listening?
  7. How does Betty work the best – in a team or individually?
  8. Can you share a stressful situation that Betty faced at work and how she dealt with it? 
  9. Compared to the other people you have hired, how would you rate Betty on a scale of 1-10? 
  10.  Is there something else I must know about Betty, that I might have missed asking about?
  11. Can you share the reason why Betty left your company?
  12.  If given the opportunity to rehire Betty, would you do it? 
  13.  Would you recommend someone else I should speak to before making a decision? 


How long is a reference check 

The turnaround time for reference checks depends on how quickly the referee responds. It can range from a few days to many weeks, or might never happen. 

Hence, it’s always best to ask your candidates for multiple references. This way, even when one referee doesn’t respond, you have others to reach out to. 

What to do if a referee is taking too long to respond

Cases, where referees don’t respond to the verifier, are abundant. At such times, what should you do? 

The best way to deal with this is a digital EPFO check. An EPFO check, with the help of a centralized provident fund database, draws details about the candidate like:

  1. Name of the company he/she works/worked at
  2. Salary bracket based on the PF amount
  3. First and last working day at the company


Using this, you may verify the basic employment credentials of the candidate. It doesn’t leave you completely clueless and buys you time to follow up with the referee. How cool!

Yet, you must know that an EPFO check can only be performed on individuals with a taxable income. These are individuals with a salary of more than 2.5 LPA.

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