Calling is a better way to check references than writing because people will sometimes tell you information that they don't want to put in writing.
Whatever you ask, though, be sure it's job-related. You don't want to be accused of invading anyone's privacy or of discriminating against them.
Here are some tips for successful over-the-phone reference checks:
- Call once to schedule the reference check, and call back when you say you will. This gives the employer time to remember specific facts about the worker, or look up that worker's file.
- Allot plenty of time in case you get a reference who will talk at length.
- Be sure it's quiet. You don't want to be distracted, and the check should be private.
- Take good notes during the conversation.
- Sum up at the end, and be sure to thank the reference for the information.
If necessary, offer to fax the job applicant's signed authorization to release information.