Never overlook a reference check…
Reference checking is a vital part of any recruitment process. Whether an agency is doing this, or you are directly interviewing and selecting a new housekeeper to work for your household. A CV, interview and trial will only give you so much information.
Actually speaking to previous employers can give an invaluable insight into the housekeeper’s level of experience, skills and personality. Make sure you obtain a proper reference check using our top tips.
What kind of references to expect, and request
A housekeeper might provide written references from former employers already which gives you a good start. The fact that former employers have made the effort to write and provide references is normally a good sign. It doesn’t, however, give you full security just yet.
All written references should be verified. When hiring a new housekeeper it is important to be diligent and thorough, and not just assume these references are all truthful. Unfortunately there are people out there pretending to be something they’re not, and you, your family or your principal could be the victim of this if written references are not verified. Therefore ask for email addresses and phone numbers of the referees, so you can verify the reference is indeed truthful.
Just contact details
When not having written references, a candidate might just provide a phone number or an email address from a previous employer. This is not a problem, but try to have a list of questions ready (see below) when you speak to the referee, just so that you can get all the information you were after.
Do ask the candidate to provide both email addresses and telephone numbers. Although people can be busy, find a right time to speak to a referee as it will probably give you much more information, and a general feel of how the candidate was when they were working for the referee. If email is the only option, then make sure you list several questions (as a little bit further below in this article) so you can still get a fairly good idea of the person.
Character references are references written/provided by a personal connection of the candidate. This could be a friend, family member, or former colleague – a character reference is never from a former employer.
Many agencies will not accept character references, or will only use it to accompany at least 2 professional references. Character references can be a good indicator of personality, but be mindful of them because they don’t necessarily give an unbiased opinion of the candidate.
Temp, long term and recent references
Finally, be critical of the quality of the reference. There is a big difference between a reference from a temp role, where the housekeeper possibly worked as cover for a week, or a long term full time role with a family.
Although references for short term and temp roles could be useful, make sure the candidate does give you the contact details of the most recent, and long term employments. Are there no recent jobs, or has every role been short term? If so, be sure to ask why. There might be a very plausible explanation for this (perhaps the candidate was studying, or having other responsibilities at the time) but it is important to get clarity on this.
What to ask when checking references for Housekeepers
Now you have established what kind of references to get, here is a list of questions you really should ask when contacting a referee. These questions can be fairly general, but they can go in as much detail as you feel is needed. Checking a reference is a great opportunity to find out more. Here are the top questions we recommend:
- Confirm the exact dates of employment
- Does this match up with the information the candidate provided?
- Why was the employment terminated?
- Were there any specific reasons regarding skill or behaviour? And are you still in touch with the candidate?
- What was the exact job description?
- Housekeeping can be extremely different in different families. Was the housekeeper performing tasks in previous families you are looking for? Think about cooking, laundry, packing and unpacking suitcases, wardrobe management, etc.
- Outstanding knowledge and skills
- Did the housekeeper have any outstanding knowledge of cleaning specific materials, dealing with different types of fabrics, knowledge of cooking for different diets?
- What are their strengths, their weaknesses, and in what areas could they improve?
- Try to see if there are any big problem areas you haven’t already uncovered from previous questions.
- Are there any negative points about the candidate that you should be aware of?
- Are they fit, healthy and how are their energy levels like?
- Character and behaviour
- Here think about punctuality, are they friendly to be around, were they flexible with hours or changing tasks, organised, and willing to go the extra mile when needed?
- Would you re-employ them if the situation arose? Would you recommend them for a similar role?
- Here be focused on any warning bells. If the referee states they would not re-hire the candidate or they would not recommend the housekeeper then it would be clear that you should possibly not employ them either. Ask for explanations in this case.
It is important to know that corporate businesses legally are not obliged to give detailed references; they only have to confirm the fact that the person worked for them, their role and the dates.
This might be the case if housekeepers provide references from a previous job in, for example, a hotel or a corporate cleaning role. However in the domestic sector, former employers are sometimes more inclined to give you a bit more information or willing to chat about their experiences with the housekeeper, positive and negative. After all having a full time, or even part time, housekeeper in your house around your family and children, is a highly personal experience.
At Polo & Tweed we have reference checked hundreds of housekeepers – so we can definitely share our tips and advice on this. So please do not hesitate to contact us today for just a chat, some inside knowledge on reference checking, or to find your perfect housekeeper through us!