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Hiring New Contractors? Read These Tips Before You Run a Reference Check

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When employers hire a salaried worker, they usually include reference checks as an important part of the hiring process. They realize that in conducting such a check, they can at least slightly reduce their risk of making a serious hiring mistake.

As more businesses migrate toward contractor-based teams, some have begun skipping the reference check part of the hiring process. Contractors can be dismissed at any time, they rationalize, so they assume they’re taking on less of a risk. However, failure to screen contractors can lead to wasted time for everyone. Sometimes it can cost a lot to onboard new contractors, so you’ll want to make sure you’re not doing that same onboarding process over again a few months later.

Michael Solomon of tech talent agency 10x Management adds, “This is even more crucial when you are hiring on the open market. Because people rely on us for pre-vetted talent, before we sign a freelancer to our company, we run the gauntlet to make sure they are up to our standards. Reference checks are just one important part of this.”

Here are a few things you should consider before running your next reference check:

Know What to Ask

Before you find yourself in a conversation with a candidate’s previous employer,have a plan for what you’ll ask. This starts with understanding the reasons for reference checking in the first place, which includes going beyond the information listed on a resume to get the bigger picture. Make sure you let the other party know that any information shared during the call is between the two of you. Ask about the best and worst aspects of the contractor’s term with that company, as well as specifics on how that contractor’s work has impacted that business’s bottom line. What was improved by having that contractor on board for that period of time? That information can be crucial to making a decision, especially if you’re considering a few candidates.

Respect Their Time

Instead of cold-calling each reference, first send an email asking to schedule a time to talk. This will avoid the inconvenience that comes from blindsiding professionals with questions. Let each source know that you only need a few minutes and be sure to honor that when you do make contact. By respecting the other person’s time, you’ll likely find that professionals are more open and willing to help you out. If the person is annoyed from the outset, you may find that any answers you get are clipped and not useful at all.

Have the Resume on Hand

As you prepare to contact each reference, always have the candidate’s resume in front of you. This will give you the opportunity to compare what you’re hearing to what the candidate presented. Lying is common on resumes, and embellishing accomplishments is even more common. However, you should be able to recognize the difference between an applicant who merely wants to impress and a candidate who is engaging in deception. The best candidates will be able to tell the truth while still making their accomplishments stand out above all of the other applicants. It is definitely wise to make sure that their resume lines up fairly closely with what you are told.

Respect Their Legal Limits

Professionals have long been concerned about the liability associated with making certain comments during reference checks. In reality, as long as former employers tell the truth while providing references, the law will be on their side. Since companies can’t necessarily control the words of their own managers, it isn’t unusual for businesses to limit the information they allow their workers to provide during reference checks. In light of this, you’ll likely occasionally encounter former employers who will only verify start and end dates of an employee’s or contractor’s tenure, declining to elaborate on the work that employee actually did. When this happens, respect that company’s policies and move on to the next reference on the list. “This is also a moment to be careful,” Solomon adds. Often when they only confirm dates, it is because they don’t have good things to say.”

Employers use reference checks to learn more about job candidates, helping them avoid making a hiring mistake. This same process can help pinpoint the perfect applicant for contractor jobs, but it’s important to take the right approach. By respecting the reference’s busy schedule and asking productive questions, you’ll have a better chance of learning more about each potential contractor, which will also help you identify the right person for your unique culture.



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