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The Importance of Reference Checking

A reference check can be your last chance to ensure that your prospective new employee is really who you think they are. It is crucial that you conduct strong reference checks to safeguard your business. However, this process doesn’t come without its own risks. As a Best Practice certified recruitment partner, our expert Recruitment Consultants are committed to conducting highly detailed reference checks throughout the recruitment process. If you want to approach reference checking yourself, here are some best practice tips.

Why Reference Check?

When it comes to recruiting great Accounting & Finance and Business & Executive Support professionals, gaining a complete view of your preferred candidates is critical to making the best hiring decision. While psychometric testing and skills assessments are excellent ways to identify whether a person has the relevant skills, experience, and traits required, a reference check is a substantive method of validating your evaluation prior to the candidate commencing work.

In addition to reaffirming the image you may already have of the candidate, reference checking can be an excellent method of differentiating potential employees and promotes a fairer recruitment process for all. Even the most 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.

Validate the Referee

There are several things you should note when conducting a reference. If the referee is a former manager from the candidate’s distant past, this may indicate they are not confident in what their current or more recent managers might say about them. In this scenario, request a more recent or relevant reference point. 

It may be that requesting a reference from a current manager could jeopardise their employment. The candidate may work for an organisation which has a strict policy around references, and only provide date confirmations. In any case, it is still important to ensure you gain enough information so that you are confident that your candidate is who they say they are. It is perfectly acceptable to ask for additional referees, such as from a previous manager or colleague who has since left the business and is no longer bound by company policy.

Regardless of who the candidate provides as a referee, it is important to approach this information with caution. It is advisable to cross-reference the referee's details with the HR department to confirm their position. The candidate ultimately controls who they decide to provide as a referee, and it is highly unlikely that they will choose someone who would speak ill of their performance or work.

Apply Best Practice to Reference Checking

In some instances, managers might decide to reach out to their own network or mutual connections to gain more information about an applicant. In conducted without the candidate’s consent, there could be legal ramifications if the candidate feels their privacy has been infringed. Abiding by Best Practice methodology will always be the most ethical and legitimate approach to referencing.

Additionally, it is crucial that you carefully consider what questions you wish to ask a referee. Any potentially discriminating question that focuses on areas around ethnicity, religion, race, age, disabilities or anything else that is personal in nature, may land you in trouble, unless you can clearly link the the answer to a requirement of a 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 social media, 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 is not relevant to a job requirement.

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