Reference checking? That’s optional, right?



I know, you dread making these calls and investing the time.  Done properly, each reference call could take upwards of a half hour to an hour.  And, you will want multiple points of view prior to making a hiring decision.  Depending on the level, this could be anywhere from three direct supervisors, to upwards of 10 people if it is pertinent to talk to subordinates, peers, and others in the organization to get a different perspective that may be important to the particular position.  Are the hours invested racking up in your head?

Many view reference checks as a nuisance; simply a thorn in one’s side.  However, when done correctly, the time invested far outweighs the cost of a potential mis-hire.  The best indicator of future potential is past performance, but we should not just take the candidate’s word for it.  Here are a couple of considerations:

Yes, people will talk to you; even the people that the candidate doesn’t want you to call.

Earmuffs, HR friends!  As much as you try to enforce the “no references allowed” policy, 90% of your employees are giving them!  On occasion, but very rarely, I will come across a strict rule follower.  But most of the time, when someone locks up and refers you to HR, there is a red flag, and they do not want to be liable for saying something that could get back to the candidate or eliminate them from consideration.

The reference is only as good as the individual giving it.

The last person that a candidate reported to prior to leaving an organization is a must in my eyes.  This will verify the reason for leaving.  If there was a very short stint with one supervisor at an organization, be sure to speak to the others.  Don’t just settle for the friends of the applicant listed.  If you get the sense that the reference provider is too partisan, the candidate walks on water, and can’t get a single flaw out of the conversation, take this reference with a grain of salt. Move on and continue to check other references; seeking out nonpartisan, objective opinions and facts.

If the candidate knows upfront that you will check references, truth serum is injected from the beginning.

I’m not saying everyone you meet lies, but a lot of people lie, especially when something as important as a job is on the line.  Making candidates aware you will speak with their previous supervisors and coworkers reduces the risk of embellishments or flat-out fabrications.

At the end of the day, we are all looking for those “A Players.”  In my book, the “A” stands for Attitude, Aptitude, and Appetite.  Dig into these traits and any other areas pertinent to the position.  This time invested will save you future headaches of not hiring the right players for your team.



Questions about reference checking? Need more tips? Contact Josh Boesch @ or by phone at 402.778.7940.

Lutz Talent is the premier search firm in Accounting and Finance direct-hire placement and temporary staffing in the Omaha and greater Nebraska and Western Iowa region. Our years of individual experience and company-wide expertise in the industry enable us to source the precise talent to fit our clients’ needs, with a shared sense of urgency and emphasis on confidentiality. We pride ourselves in finding the right fit for candidates and clients alike. If you are looking for a tailored approach to your search, contact us to discuss further.





Josh Boesch is a Lutz Talent Shareholder with over 14 years of audit and recruiting experience. He heads the Lutz Talent division, a service that helps clients identify “the ideal candidate” to meet their business goals, challenges, culture and vision. His experience as a CPA and his approach to gaining an in-depth understanding of the client’s talent needs, including the skills, experience, cultural understanding and personality fit, has been integral to his success.

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