Employment References in Retail

Don't Skimp on Due Diligence

Employment reference checks, job verification, background check, whatever you want to call it, it’s absolutely necessary part of the hiring process. This is normally a very standard process in many industries but I have found it is not uncommon for retail employers to completely skip this step of the hiring process.


It’s such a simple way to find out good and (sometimes bad) information about the person who you are hoping to work for your organization. You get to pretend your a private investigator trying to uncover the truth. Not only can it help you determine if that person is trustworthy, reliable, knowledgeable and experienced for the job you are hiring for; it also helps the manager to figure out how to best train that person, how they will fit with the existing team, where they fall short and where they will excel. And sometimes is very cut and dry – especially if the applicant blatantly falsifies their salary or employment history.

Call me old fashioned but what’s wrong with picking up the phone and calling a few people who may know “so and so” or have a friend who worked with them? They often will tell you all the dirt you need to know without even knowing they have done so. Just ask a quick question and let them ramble on. Employees can circle around and around in a few similar industries and it’s easy to call a few leads within your network to get the information you need.

Good Story!

I’m doing a reference check on a candidate for a mid-level person in my company. I call both of their professional references listed on their application and their current employer (of course at the approval of the candidate first). All have wonderful things to say about the candidate. Seems like a slam dunk. Her experience is dead on with what we are looking for, great personality, good customer service, a go-getter and so on. Then the candidates current manager says something that sets off a question in my head when I ask her about the persons current title. Hmmm, that doesn’t match exactly what the candidate told us. Lets dig deeper. I contact the corporate office and sweet talk my way through the employment verification process. Turns out she doesn’t make $50,000 and her current title is not at the higher level she had indicated. No, in fact her current wage is $12.00/hour and her title is at a clerk level. When we asked the candidate about the discrepancy, she literally had an explanation that completely justified it in her head.

“Bla bla, my company promised me this position at some point in the future.” What!?

We were so close to making the job offer to a candidate who blatantly lied and thought nothing of it. I can only imagine what that person would have done if she was hired.

“Oops, I over ordered 10,000 products but it wasn’t my fault. I wasn’t here that day, it happened all on its own.” Huh!?

It’s all about Due Diligence.

It completely baffles me when we find out that another company who we have friendly business relations with hires an employee we fired without even picking up the phone to ask about it. This sort of thing happens all too often and, guess what, those employees never work out. Why not invest some time in finding out as much as you can about that candidate up front, instead of having to spend a ton of time trying to fire them?!

Employment References in Retail

Next time you are ready to make an offer, make sure you have done the due diligence to make sure you are making a good hire. It pays off in the end.

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Sabra Reyes

Sabra Reyes is one of those rare Human Resources professionals who knew HR was the career of choice in college. She received a BS in Business with a concentration in Human Resources Management from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. After 10 years of HR generalist work, she has found her niche as a Human Resources Director for an independent natural and organic grocery company with more than a handful of stores in the Bay Area region of California. You can find her on Linkedin.


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