“Who’s Asking?” – Is Reference Checking Gone With The Dinosaurs?

Historically, taking a reference on a prospective new employee from a previous employer was a strong method to potentially identify any issues or confirm identified positives. Professionalism between companies and seniors within a company, allowed for a reference to be taken with honest feedback and constructive criticism.  But has the modern reference changed beyond now being useful?

The Threat of Litigation

It goes without saying that reference checking allows us to gather independent information about a candidate’s historic job performance and paints a general picture of their character. The fact that litigation is a threat that employers can possibly face, a newfound situation has been created whereby organisations are not at liberty to provide a detailed reference check  and are tied to providing  limited information only. This is understandable given that companies are protecting themselves against any potential legal action but it can however; take away what can be a useful factor of the selection process.

The Issue for Recruiters

This can be a very grey area for a lot of Recruiters and Talent Acquisition Specialists who have to rely on feedback gained from a template form or a two minute conversation with a referee. Subsequently, in worst case scenarios, it doesn’t take long for a client to click that a candidate may not be as qualified for the job as initially perceived, which results in a time wasting exercise for all parties involved.

Given this precedence of restrictive reference checking, we have included some pointers below which can help you make the best out of this situation.

1. Always check you have the most relevant referee – the candidate should have reported to this person directly for a reasonable period of time.

2. Make sure it’s relevant but also time appropriate – if they have skipped references from their most recent employers in the last number of years, then this may be a red flag. Be wary of omissions.

3. Beware of fake references. It can be shocking how often it happens where fake referees are provided. When a candidate is desperate to get a new job, it can happen.

4. If you do get to have a brief conversation with a referee over the phone, ensure you are prepared for carrying out the reference check. Have all your notes ready and even print out a personalised template so that you have a structure to follow.

5. Organise it at a time that is most convenient for the referee so you are not catching them at a time that they might be busy and consequently end up being impatient.

6. Take detailed notes and capture the most important information in bullet points. Don’t be afraid to go back on the points a referee has provided – you want to make sure your notes are as detailed as possible so that they are fair and there are no discrepancies.

While there are obvious financial implications when recruiting a bad hire, we sometimes forget about the other costs associated, such as the resources that have been used to recruit (agencies, advertising etc.), time taken up by members of staff as well as a drop in productivity. Incorporating the above pointers into your reference checking strategy will help avoid this detrimental cost.