Celebrating 20 Years in Business • 2004 - 2024

References Add Insights to Resumes

How much thought have you given to reviewing job prospects’ references? Conducting a reference check is a skill in its own right, requiring sensitivity and instincts for weeding out valuable input from generalized responses. The latter is presumably positive — after all, candidates choose the references themselves.

A worthwhile conversation

References serve several functions. The straightforward process depends on asking the right questions. An interviewer can often judge, according to how the reference responds, whether the candidate is respected. Is the candidate regarded as an outstanding worker or are they more run of the mill?

First, the reference should validate key facts provided in a candidate’s application. Second, they may be able to expand superficial information into a deeper view of a candidate’s knowledge, skills and personality. Third, their answers may signal discrepancies in the application, like factual inconsistencies.

A hiring manager must sometimes use a sixth sense to decide whether a potentially promising candidate will fit in with the culture of the organization and the team. A third party can provide useful clues as to the candidate’s performance and behavior as well as impressions of their work ethic or response to challenges.

As an additional layer of background checks, employers and HR personnel use references to verify experience and credentials. The checks can add extra value for employers by reducing the risk of careless or negligent hiring. It’s important to know that people who provide references are protected in some states for disclosing employee information. Otherwise, references might be wary of the legal consequences arising from failing to reveal enough relevant information or overdoing it with an excessively harsh review.

Framing the questions

Prepare your questions for references in advance, obtaining input from other team members who have been involved in the hiring process. By starting the process prepared, you will find it easier to stay on track as well as finesse compliance issues. Try to avoid yes-or-no questions, which are unlikely to add much useful material. Where feasible, ask all references the same questions.

Above all, stay well away from discriminatory or illegal topics, including age, family, religion, country of origin, health, disability, finances or credit history. In fact, try to generally steer clear of all questions unrelated to the job at hand.

Here are some suggested questions for references:

  • How did you interact with the candidate in terms of your own role?
  • Did you see the candidate perform or show any marked accomplishments?
  • Can you suggest a couple of areas for growth? (A diplomatic way of saying weaknesses.)
  • Have you observed any negative behaviors that affected performance (e.g., lateness, missed deadlines)?
  • What is the candidate’s working style (e.g., solitary, collaborative, creative, detail-oriented)?
  • When exactly did you work with the candidate?
  • Why did the candidate leave?
  • Why would or wouldn’t you recommend the candidate?
  • Can you give an example of how the candidate responded to a stressful situation?
  • How did the candidate manage team conflict?
  • Would you rehire the candidate?
  • Can you tell me something positive the candidate may not have already mentioned (e.g., volunteer work or hobbies)?

A chance to enhance

Conduct reference reviews productively, staying mindful of everyone’s time. Before you start, make sure to notify candidates in the initial job posting that references will be required and obtain their explicit consent, as some applicants see the process as invasive. Then wait for all your hiring feedback before talking to the references, at least one of whom should be a former manager.

Most discussions take place briefly by phone, which is more conducive to candid responses. Fifteen minutes is typical. If the candidate will be reporting directly to you, do not delegate. You understand the position thoroughly and can best establish rapport with the references.

Look out for red flags, such as inordinate praise. And if the candidate says not to call someone they have listed, or provides the wrong phone number, you need to explore that—don’t just let it go. Nevertheless, don’t assume the worst—give the candidate a chance to explain.


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Emily Gooding

Payroll Specialist

Emily is graduating in May with a BA in Business Administration from Lander University. She has gained valuable experience as a payroll intern for BMW. We are so excited to have her on the team and  to see her excel in her role as a Payroll Specialist.

Madison Capps​

Payroll Specialist

Madison received a BS in Psychology from Southern Illinois University in 2019. Since then, she has been working as a supervisor at Starbucks and earning her second degree, a BA in Administration and Accounting, from USC Aiken in the fall. She will be joining us as a Payroll Specialist and a valuable addition to our Paysmart team.

Kristen Wilby

Payroll Specialist

Before moving to South Carolina with her husband, Kristen worked as a Sales & Marketing Specialist for Premium King in Feasterville, PA, where she gained valuable experience in strengthening the brand and generating new business. Kristen also brings to our team several years of professional experience as an Executive Assistant and as an Office Manager, where she was first introduced to payroll. Kristen’s knowledge and her innate ability to establish genuine relationships contribute greatly to the team as we continue to grow and serve our clients.

Meg Whitaker

Payroll Specialist

Meg brings nearly twenty years of professional experience to the team. Most recently, she worked as a Payroll & Benefits Specialist in Centennial, Colorado. She and her husband recently moved back to the Carolinas for his job, and we were fortunate to find her! Before Colorado, Meg worked at CPI Security Systems in Charlotte, NC, for twelve years as a Billing Coordinator and Senior Administrative Assistant. She also gained three years of experience as an HR Assistant for a law firm in Fayetteville, NC. Her expertise significantly adds to our team and benefits our clients as we continue to grow!

Rachel McClaran, EA


Rachel plays a crucial role in developing Paysmart’s core processes and procedures, as well as overall strategy within the company. Rachel graduated from Bob Jones University and is an active member of the Junior League of Greenville and the South Carolina Association of CPAs. Her desire to serve her community has led her to become involved with several nonprofit organizations and to serve as the past Vice President of Finance for the Junior League of Greenville. Outside of the office,Rachel enjoys spending time on the water and traveling with her husband and their two children.

Hina Rogers

Payroll Specialist

Hina joined the Paysmart team in August 2022. She grew up in Portland, Oregon, before moving to Greenville, SC. She earned both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in education. After college, she represented her alma mater as an enrollment counselor in the Southeast and Western states. She enjoys traveling, road trips, cooking, and quality time with her family. Hina looks forward to serving your company’s needs! 

Sharon Quantrille

Payroll Specialist

Sharon has spent several years in the accounting industry and has completed courses to hone her skills as a Payroll Specialist. Her background as an educator, professional musician, and Human Resources Generalist has contributed to her communication skills, commitment to professionalism, and organizational skills that make her a tremendous benefit to her Paysmart clients and colleagues. A graduate of Bob Jones University with a B.S. degree in Music Education, a Master of Music degree in Piano Performance and a Human Resources Generalist Certificate, Sharon spends her free time gardening, hiking, playing the piano, and spending time with her four adult children.

Haleigh Bates

Payroll Specialist

Haleigh joined our team in May of 2022 as a payroll specialist. Haleigh has over eight years of experience helping personal and small business clients with their financial needs. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from Georgia Southern University. She enjoys spending time with her husband and their three children, Caden, Addie, and Mason.  She likes to go hiking, spend time at the beach, and volunteer at her church in the children’s ministry. 

Courtney Rossello

Payroll Tax Manager

Courtney joined the team at Paysmart Payroll Services in September 2020.  She was raised in Simpsonville, SC, and graduated from Clemson University in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a concentration in public administration.  Courtney began her payroll career in 2011 and currently works in the payroll tax department at Paysmart.  She strives to make every client feel comfortable knowing their payroll taxes and tax returns are handled accurately and efficiently.  Courtney is also a volunteer Treasurer for a local middle school in Greenville County.  In her spare time, she enjoys volunteering with special needs children, road trips, and spending time with her two daughters. 

Emily Hargrave

Senior Payroll Specialist

Emily received her bachelor’s degree in music from West Coast Baptist College. Since her college days, Emily has gained nearly 18 years of experience in office operations and project management. Emily joined Paysmart in 2017 and enjoys using her skills to support clients and the Paysmart team.

 At heart, Emily is a small-town country girl from the Midwest but is happy now to call the Upstate home, where she doesn’t have to endure harsh winters. Emily’s favorite ways to spend her free time are reading a good book, challenging herself with puzzles, and doing her best not to kill the plants in her garden.

Julie Shull

Client Success Specialist

Julie is the Client Success Specialist for Paysmart Payroll.  She joined the team as a Payroll Specialist in March of 2020. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from NC State University and earned an MBA from Gardner-Webb University while playing on the GWU women’s tennis team. After starting her career with Wilson Sporting Goods as a Financial Analyst, she took a few years off to raise twin boys until she began working for Greenville County Schools in 2014.  Julie enjoys spending time with her family and outdoor activities.

Brad Detandt

Payroll Administrator

A graduate of Northland International University with a BA in Counseling, Brad Detandt leads the day-to-day operations of the Paysmart team. He is eager to grow the firm’s client portfolio. He brings a diverse employment background in retail, manufacturing, nonprofit ministries, and business development, with
a specialized focus on team development and process improvement. Brad’s professional – and personal – mission is to “Be Great. Serve!” Brad enjoys spontaneous activities and weekend trips to state parks with his wife Miranda and his three children.

Stephen C. Stokes

Managing Partner

Stephen has more than 14 years’ experience working with individuals and businesses to meet their tax, accounting, and payroll needs. He has been the managing partner of Paysmart Payroll Services since January 2009. He is a licensed certified public accountant in South Carolina and Georgia. Stephen is also a member of the South Carolina Association of CPAs, the Georgia Society of CPAs, the American Institute of CPAs, and the Professional Association of Small Business Accountants. He has a bachelor’s degree from Bob Jones University and a master’s degree from Georgia State University. Stephen was born and raised near Atlanta, Georgia and moved to Greenville, South Carolina, several years ago. He enjoys spending time with his wife, Tiffani, and daughters, Madeline and Julianna. He is actively involved in his church and enjoys reading, sports, and other outdoor activities.