The 5 W's of Reference Checks
The who, what, when, where, and why of reference checks at Viget.
If you’ve been hired before (or hired others), you know that reference checks are a key component of many recruitment processes. These checks are typical regardless of the level of hire, the role, or the speed of the process. Additionally, they differ from organization to organization, so we thought it’d be helpful to outline the who, what, when, where, and why (not quite in that order) of the ones we conduct at Viget. Let’s begin!
When do we do reference checks?
We conduct reference checks after final interviews if the feedback is mostly positive and we feel optimistic about extending an offer. At this point, you’ve met with several members of the Viget team – both within and outside your discipline. We have a good sense of how your experience would add to the team and hope that at this stage of the game, you have a great idea of what working at Viget would be like, too!
We try to conduct reference checks within ~48 hours of completing final interviews. To move quickly, we’ll ask for three references ahead of your remaining interviews. However, we will always ask you before we conduct the reference checks, so there shouldn’t be any surprises. One pro-tip to help us avoid a not-so-fun game of phone tag that might delay the process: once you list your references, give them a heads up that they might get contacted by someone at Viget.
Why do we do reference checks?
As I mentioned, we do reference checks once we feel confident that there’s a mutual fit. While our process is intentionally thorough, it is a relatively quick blip in the process. Reference checks allow us to see how the attributes and values we’ve learned from you also align with what others have experienced in your career journey. A conversation with your references presents a valuable opportunity to get an inside scoop on how we can best support your future success if we move forward. The most efficient and effective way to do that is to chat with someone who has an established professional relationship with you and quite simply, knows you better than we do.
It’s important to note that hearing something ‘negative’ will not necessarily mean we won’t extend an offer. Often, we hear something constructive that we pass along to your would-be manager, so they know to work on and prioritize growth in that area. These conversations are an excellent opportunity to lay a positive foundation for your manager relationship.
Who should be a reference for you?
First, you should ask someone you know and have directly worked alongside. This person can speak to your skills, character, and contributions.
We love to hear from different types of collaborators, so we’ll ask for three references: at least one former supervisor and at least one peer. A former supervisor will have insight into what it was like to manage you, how you compared to other reports at a similar experience level, and your growth over time. A peer can help us understand what it’s like to collaborate with you daily and what your work results are like. You could also ask a current or former client to shed light on these areas.
There are also people who we wouldn’t recommend as a reference. I’m confident my mom or college buddies would give effusive, detailed anecdotes about my character. Still, they probably wouldn’t be able to speak about what it’s like to work with me on setting up the evaluation process for a new role at Viget. While they are undoubtedly big fans of you getting hired, please don’t ask a parent or childhood/college friend to be a reference.
Of course, you likely have current and former coworkers that you’d also call friends, especially if you’ve spent a long time at one company. They are fair game if they can effectively talk about working with you!
We encourage you to select references who can speak specifically about your work.
What happens during a reference check?
After we get permission from you to contact your references and a thumbs up that we have the correct contact information, we’ll send each of them an email. We’ll let them know when we plan to give them a call (usually that day) and provide an opportunity to set up a better time or conversation medium if they’d like.
Once we’re on the phone together, typically, we spend around 15 minutes learning more about you. We’ll ask your references about, for instance, what it was like to work together, whether and how you’ve demonstrated integrity and inclusivity, ways you’ve grown over time, and ideas for how we can best support your growth from the start.
Since this is a reference check and not a background check, we'll stick to those high-level questions, not things like "every address you've ever lived at" or "the names of all of your colleagues." The important thing to know is that our goal is not to live out any detective fantasy - nor add an extraneous layer of gatekeeping - but instead to help set you up for success at Viget.
Where do we go from here?
After we finish all three reference checks, we’ll share a summary with the hiring team, which will make a final decision.
If the team decides that you and Viget aren’t quite the best fit for one another now, your recruiter will call you to deliver the news.
If we decide to extend an offer to join Viget, your recruiter will reach out to set up a time for one last phone call. This time, the phone call will be from your prospective manager and either Brian, Viget’s co-founder and CEO, or the Managing Director of your discipline, who will call you to walk through your offer letter and say congratulations!
Words: In closing (a surprise 6th “W”!)
This article aims to explain reference checks at Viget transparently but at a high level. Of course, we understand that every person’s situation is different (for instance, some of you might have a close childhood friend who also ended up employing you!). We also acknowledge that contacting current/former employers can be sensitive or awkward for some folks. The recruiting team at Viget is always happy to answer questions about the reference check process or talk the particulars through with you when the time is right!