We Are Sunshine

Your Guide to Checking References

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020

Any salon owner will tell you that the staff you hire can make or break your business, yet so many tanning businesses fail to implement a thorough hiring process. It requires a tremendous level of responsibility and trustworthiness to put someone on the front lines of a business, and something as simple as checking references before hiring can ensure you get the right people for the job.

If you have ever thought that checking references was a waste of time, it’s likely that a chat with a veteran salon owner would change your mind. Over the many interviews I’ve had with owners and managers, I’ve heard stories about everything you could imagine. When I hear things about no-call, no-shows, or theft, my follow-up question always comes back to the salon’s hiring practices.

Don’t dupe yourself into thinking that it’s a waste of time to check references, even if it’s only for a part-time job. It’s a mistake that could cost you in ways you hadn’t even imagined. And if you are already checking references, a few best practices may help you better target the right candidates.

To start, don’t be a doormat: You are not obligated to accept the list of contacts provided to you as references. When a candidate only lists personal or peer references, it may be a red flag. Ask for contact the contact information of a previous manager or authoritative figure, because that’s who you want to talk to. Asking why they weren’t included on the original list may give additional insight into their relationships with superiors or their overall experience.

Calling on a candidate’s reference list is like holding a second interview, and it should be treated with the same professionalism and preparation. It should also be given a little investigation: It’s unfortunate but true that a select few people may falsify their references to make them seem like a more viable candidate. While it may not be the best idea to grill someone for verification, you can do an internet search on the individual or organization. Instead of simply calling the provided number, try getting connected to them through the main number for the business if possible.

The most crucial part of following up with references is making the best use of them once you make contact. A common mistake is to ask yes or no questions that don’t end up leading to any insightful information. Open-ended questions encourage more thoughtful answers. Another misstep is using references to simply confirm the information on the resume. It’s beneficial to corroborate what you’ve been told, but the advantage of conversations with references is that you can speak to a manager who has a broader view of an employee’s performance and attitude. Any lingering questions you have left after an interview can be more candidly answered by these crucial resources.

If you’re feeling a little stumped regarding what questions to ask, here is a helpful list to get you started:

What were the candidate’s responsibilities while working at your company?

What was your relationship to the candidate?

How did the candidate perform in regards to ______?

Did the candidate seem to work better alone or on a team? What leads you to believe this?

What were the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses?

How would you describe your management style, and how did the candidate respond to it?

Can you recall a specific time when the candidate performed above expectations?

Would you hire the candidate again? For what kind of role? Why or why not?

Do you think the candidate is suitable for the position we are offering?

Use your reference interviews to fill in the information gaps you have, but remember to tune in to what the reference is saying. You may find it more valuable to veer from your list of questions and probe more into any unexpected answers. In most cases, your curiosity and persistence will be rewarded with a more candid view of a potential hire. That may seem trivial in theory, but the money to be gained or lost as a result of your choice is very real.