How can you judge someone’s character? It is not an easy task but one that employers and other professionals may have to complete as part of their job responsibilities.

When an individual applies for employment, the employer will review his qualifications.There will be questions about work history as well as education and income. Asking for a referee or reference is another common requirement to obtain employment. When asking for a referee, employers have to determine if the referees themselves are valid.

Length of Time

Consider the length of time a referee has personally known or been professionally associated with the applicant. It takes time to get to know a person’s character or work habits. Those giving a reference for an applicant they have only known or worked with for a brief time may have only seen this person during times of good fortune. But have they been associated with this person long enough to see how they respond when things are not going well?

A referee should be able to provide information as to how the applicant deals with difficult situations. She should tell of how the applicant faced a given problem and developed a strategy to overcome the difficulty. A referee should be able to give the type of detailed history on the applicant that can only come from knowing someone over a significant length of time.

Meet the Referee

Employer screening agencies may have a preference on communicating with a referee. While some may be fine with a written reference, others may feel they gain a better perspective of the applicant, as well as the referees themselves, if the parties involved meet or speak in person. Some interviewers feel they can better determine the validity and sincerity of the referee by personal communication. While they may not want to think badly of someone, an experienced human resource director will realize a dishonest applicant may use false references.

Keep it Legal

While it is standard practice to check the background of a prospective employee, many companies also check the validity of the referee. This practice is legal if it can be shown the validation is specifically for job-related purposes and is not in violation of any anti-discrimination laws.

If referees will be checked, the applicant must be notified of this action. This simple notification may encourage the applicant to provide truthful answers during the interview. The interviewer may gain some perspective by asking the applicant what their referees may say about them. The interviewer may relay this information when speaking with the referee to see if the answers are agreeable.

The person who checks the validity of the referee should also be the same person the potential employee will report to. This is based on the idea that two people may have greatly different perceptions of the same individual. If you will be directly working with the applicant, conduct the referee check personally.

A properly performed reference check that follows all legal guidelines can help find the ideal candidate for a job opening.