Reference checking: how to do it for LTC staff

While the interview process provides valuable information about a candidate’s experience, reference checks go further to cover important factors like competency, work ethic and interpersonal skills.

Taking the time to do thorough and structured reference checks can provide the insight needed to assess a candidate’s compatibility with your facility, saving you time in the long run.

Reference check laws in Canada 

It is legal and best practice for LTC homes to conduct reference checks for potential care staff. Saying that, there are a few legal issues to keep in mind.

It’s best practice to obtain the applicant’s consent prior to contacting references, so having a checkbox on your application form or another easy way of obtaining this is a good idea.

Keeping a record of a candidate during the hiring process is like keeping the personal health information you have about your residents: store the information securely to ensure you are abiding by privacy laws.

Under the Canadian Human Rights Act, employers’ hiring practices must be free of discrimination. This includes age, sex, national or ethnic origin, religion, sexual orientation, family status and disability, among others.

Here is some guidance on how to ensure you are abiding by the above laws:

  • Keep your records secure.
  • During interviews, talk only about the candidate’s job performance and job requirements: do not stray into casual conversations related to their personal lives, political beliefs, medical status or past legal actions.
  • Encourage referees to provide examples to back up their opinions, ideally through observable work behaviour.

Please consult the above links to ensure you comply with applicable laws, as this is not legal advice.

Preparing for the reference check

Following along with best practices, structure the conversation around the specific competencies and skills required for the job, then decide whether the referees provided should be able to provide useful information about them.

If not, it’s worth asking the candidate for alternate references (e.g. a direct supervisor rather than an HR manager).

Before starting the process, make sure you have a list of standardized interview questions (see below for examples) specific to the role being hired for. This creates consistency, fairness and allows for multiple people to conduct reference checks.

Reference check questions

So, what do you ask referees? The questions you ask should cover how the candidate performed at a former workplace, as this is indicative of how they will perform in your facility.

Are there any competencies or skills that are required for the job that weren’t verified during the hiring process so far? Make sure to include those.

Here are some examples of how to structure the conversation and example questions you can ask.

Verification questions

After introducing yourself and your role, start with a few quick questions that verify the information the candidate has provided. This also allows for an easy way to get the conversation started.

– Can you tell me the dates that this person worked at your organization?

– What was their role and did it change over the course of their employment?

– What were some of the skills they were required to have?

Preliminary questions

Then ask several open-ended questions about their working relationship with the candidate, strengths and weaknesses, and areas of development.

– Tell me about how you and the candidate worked together.

– What are their greatest strengths and biggest weaknesses?

– Are there any areas you would suggest that they need additional support with right away?

Competency-based questions

Here you want to ask for specific examples of the candidate demonstrating the competencies that are required for the job. These should match the job description.

For example, if one of the competencies is to holistically assess residents, you could ask:

– Can you describe an assessment the candidate conducted, and instances when they excelled or struggled?

More general questions could be:

– Can you describe the candidate’s clinical skills?

– Do you have examples of them demonstrating competency while handling complex patients?

– How would you describe the candidate’s communications skills with patients, their families and other care professionals?

– Can you comment on their ability to adapt and problem solve?

– Can you give me an example of a challenge they had and how they dealt with it?

Further development questions

Sometimes referees have difficulty talking about unfavourable instances regarding the candidate. As a way to find out what they need to work on, you can ask questions about areas beneficial for them to work towards developing.

– For such-and-such a skill, are you aware of any areas that could be developed further?

– What is an area you would have focused on developing next if the candidate had stayed employed with you? Why?

– When working within a team, is there an interpersonal skill you think the candidate could improve on?

Taking care of your staffing needs

The hiring process can be lengthy but it’s worth it to build an excellent team.

Florence helps you when it comes to getting shifts filled for that team or reaching out for help when there’s gaps in the schedule.

If your current team can take on extra shifts, the Florence app will notify them instantly via SMS when there’s a shift open.

They simply tap to accept the shift and you’re covered!

If one of your care professionals calls in sick at the last minute or requests time off and no one is available to cover, you can access Florence’s network of over 7,000 care professionals to fill the gap.

If you’re interested in learning more about Florence’s features, we’ve got the details here. Or you can book a no-obligation demo to find out more.

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