Checking References

Do you check the references of new hires? Have you found that checking references doesn’t really tell you anything about the candidate?

As you interview your candidates, you get a sense of what they are like and how they will interact with your patients and other employees. However, it’s important to see how previous employers felt about the candidate.

When calling for references, listen to what the previous supervisor says and be persistent with follow up questions. I worked in an office where it was our policy to “not rehire employees who left.” Therefore if you were to ask the question, “Would you rehire this person?” the answer might be no. I would follow that question with, “Is it your policy not to rehire anyone, or is there a reason you would not rehire this person?”

Keep in mind that most companies have a policy not to say anything negative about previous employees. If that is true, it’s important to listen to what is said and ask questions to get the information you want.

When you do get a negative reference, try to understand the circumstances before eliminating that person as a candidate. For example, was it just a personality conflict? Is it the candidate’s personality or the supervisor’s?

I know of a physician who will not give a good reference for anyone who leaves his employ no matter how good an employee they were. After all, they left him (the physician) and now they are the enemy. How sad to have such an attitude.

Reference checks have a place in the interviewing process, but be open minded enough to use the information appropriately. Sometimes, someone else’s poor employee can be your gem.

Do you check references? What is the most unbelievable thing you discovered while checking references? Email me at I’m happy to share anything unique with our readers.