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The Importance of Reference Checking

Friday, 24 November 2017

Conducting reference checks is an absolutely crucial cog in your recruitment process. We’ve heard several hiring nightmares over the years that confirms this: “They were the perfect candidate on paper but turned out to be a costly choice in the long run.”

A reference check can often be your last chance to ensure that your ideal candidate is really who you think they are. Of course, not everything goes as planned. When you’ve had a vital role on the market for too long, the decision to skip reference checking can seem like a good one at the time but can quickly turn into an expensive and damaging mistake.

That said, some may say references are flawed from the start. Candidates choose who to use as a reference so how can you ensure the information you’re provided can help you make the right hiring decision?

Why Conduct a Reference Check?

When it comes to recruiting great Accounting & Finance and Business & Executive Support professionals, ensuring you have a complete and holistic view of your top candidates is crucial to making the best decision. While psychometric testing and skills assessments are excellent ways to ensure your ideal candidate has the relevant skills, experience, and traits for the role and your business, a reference check is a substantive method of verifying your evaluation prior to the candidate starting work.

In addition to reaffirming the image of the candidate you have, reference checking is also an excellent way to help decide between a few strong prospective employees. It also promotes a fairer recruitment process for all. Even the most experienced and skilled professionals can struggle in an interview setting. A reference check can help strengthen the position of people who are not naturally talented at interviewing. All-in-all, reference checking can help you to hire people who are truly a great fit to your business’s needs and culture.

How to Conduct an Excellent Reference

To ensure references aid in identifying potential best-fit employees, there are several things you should watch out for. The first is the person your ideal candidate is referring. If the referee is a former Manager from the candidate’s distant past, this could be an indication that the candidate is not confident in what their current Manager might say about them. If you’re faced with this example, ask your candidate if they could provide a reference from a recent employer and question if they cannot. 

It could be likely that requesting a reference from their current Manager could understandably jeopardise your candidate’s current employment. You might also come across times where your ideal candidate worked for an organisation who has a strict policy on providing references, and will only confirm the dates that they worked. In any case, it’s still important to ensure you gain enough information so that you feel confident that your candidate is who they say they are. With this in mind, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for additional references, such as from a previous Manager or colleague who has since left the business and is no longer bound by policy.

Regardless of who the candidate decides to put forward for a reference though, it’s important to always approach the information you receive with caution. This is because your candidate controls who they decide to provide as a reference and it’s very unlikely that they’re going to choose someone who would speak ill of their performance or achievements.

Apply Best Practice to Reference Checking

In some instances, Hiring Managers might decide to reach out to their own network or mutual connections to gain more information about an applicant. However, it’s important to note that without the candidate’s prior consent, there could be legal ramifications if the applicant feels their privacy has been infringed. Abiding by a Best Practice methodology will always be the most ethical and legitimate approach to conducting references.

It’s also crucial that you pay attention to the questions you’re asking referees. Any question that could be seen as discriminatory, such as topics around ethnicity, disabilities, physical appearance, religion, age or anything else that is personal in nature, can land you in legal hot water unless you can clearly link them as a requirement of the position.

Information gained through social media can also fall under the same potential dangers of discrimination. Whilst it is perfectly legal to access public information on a social media platform, if an applicant can prove it led to a discriminatory hiring decision, the same legal ramifications mentioned above might apply. To avoid this, your business should abide by a Best Practice methodology that actively avoids basing hiring decisions on information that isn’t relevant to the job requirements.

Closing Thoughts

The cost of making the wrong hire can be significant, so it’s crucial that you are conducting strong reference checks to safeguard your business. That said, this process doesn’t come without its own potential risks. As a Best Practice certified recruitment partner since 2004, our expert Recruitment Consultants ensure that at least two highly detailed references have been completed before any candidates are presented to you. This will also include cross-referencing information and verbally contacting all referees to safeguard against potential fraudulent references. This is so that you can rest assured knowing that the candidates before you have been meticulously matched to your business’s unique needs. If you’re interested to find out how Parker Bridge can help your organisation, get in touch with us today.

The Importance of Reference Checking

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