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The importance of reference checks

A recent high-profile scandal, involving Myer executive recruit Andrew Flanagan and his fictionalised CV, has drawn attention to the importance of checking the references of prospective employees. Mr. Flanagan was dismissed on his first day after it was revealed that his impressive career history was almost entirely fabricated.

The first step you should take when checking references is to confirm the concrete facts presented on the prospective employee’s resume, for example dates of employment, job title, level of responsibility and level of reporting. Wherever it is possible, you should try to get the referee to give you concrete examples to back up their claims about the employee. It can also be helpful to ask them to provide examples of the employee’s performance and behaviour in stressful situations.You should contact multiple referees whenever possible, and attempt to construct an image of any patterns of behaviour that the prospective employee might display.

Be aware that many referees will be cautious in giving their responses, especially to questions that are primarily subjective. Many people will also be reluctant to devote a significant amount of time to answering your questions, so you should carefully consider which questions are the most crucial to shaping your opinion, and be time efficient in the way you present them.

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