How to Conduct a Superior Reference Check

MARCH 07, 2017
Finally you have found the perfect person to fill the open position in your pharmacy. But… you still need to be certain that what he or she told you about her prior positions and successes are true. It’s critical that this can be verified. Studies show that nearly 80% of candidates lie or misrepresent themselves during interviews.

Besides validating what the candidate has presented to you, you will get greater insight into their skills and knowledge from someone who has observed their ability to perform. If they have seriously misrepresented themselves to you, you can save time, effort, and money, plus save yourself a lot of headaches.

A few years ago, I had a client who had interviewed a prospective employee whom he thought to be ideally suited for the job, in every way, form, and manner. This individual looked like the solution to his problems. However, when doing a reference check—using my approach— he discovered that he had a potential thief. You want to avoid the same or similar problems, and with a little time and effort—you will.

Conducting the Reference Check

Just as with the interview process, to conduct a successful reference check, you must be prepared. Be sure to have the questions you would like to ask prior employers about your candidate pre-planned. I suggest you have these typed up and have the same number of copies as you have interviews. In this manner, it will be easier to keep track of what each one had to say about your candidate.

Next, when contacting past employers, be certain that you are talking to her current, or former, immediate supervisor, not someone several levels up or a fellow employee who had nothing to do with assigning work or evaluating her successes and nonsuccesses.

Caveat 
If your top applicant requests that you not call her current employer, you must honor that request. In that case, you want to check her last 3 places of employment. However, be aware of the fact that her current employer may be having problems with her. Thus, not calling may be a red flag.

When calling, it is important to first allay any fears that individual may have regarding the call. He may be concerned that he could be sued. Therefore, after identifying yourself and telling him the purpose of your call, introduce the process by saying, “Let me assure you that anything and everything that you say will be kept strictly confidential.” Then, commence with your questions. Here are a few examples:
  • Could you rely on her attendance? Was she punctual?
  • What were her responsibilities? Was she able to handle each of those effectively?
  • How would you rate her quality of work? Productivity volume?
  • What were her principle strengths? Weaknesses?
Naturally, if any answers arouse your interest, follow up with more questions relating to that subject. Create your own questions to quickly follow through, but be careful. The questions should be sequenced so that they can go from the less challenging to the more informative. This helps you to develop a rapport with the individual, getting them involved in helping you.

On the other hand, there will be times a former supervisor is not too willing to pass on information. You may, however, be able to extract some critical information, by asking some very simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions, such as: “If the situation were to present itself, would you rehire the individual to the same job at the same salary?” If the answer is ‘yes’, there’s no need to go any further. You have found an excellent candidate. If they respond ‘no’, they should not hesitate to tell you why.
 
Other “What If’s?”

…the individual has been out of the labor market during the last 10 years— or thereabouts?
Get the name and phone number of her last supervisor, and call that individual. See what sort of a report you get. Usually, character doesn’t change— even in 10 years. If the drive and determination factor was there before, it’s doubtlessly still there. Again, use your gut instinct.

the former supervisor won't talk to you unless he calls you back? Let him do so. He’s probably doing a little snooping of his own. He wants to make certain that you are for real— that you’re not just someone trying to gather information for their own purpose or a friend of the applicant who is trying to create the basis for a lawsuit.

By the Way
For your own protection, when you get calls from someone doing a reference check, you too should always take the name of the individual, verify that it’s a real business, verify that it’s a real business, and not someone trying to trap you into a lawsuit, and then call back. In other words, protect yourself.

More relating to hire superstars for your A-team in a few weeks.

Lester Nathan, MS
Lester Nathan, MS
A powerhouse in the world of independent pharmacy, Lester offers free business resources for Pharmacy Owners on his website, ThePharmacySage.com. Offering insight, wisdom, and strategy, Lester is an esteemed voice in pharmacy business. Lester helps his clients increase patients and profits in spite of the 3rd party payment fiasco.
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