Why Reference Checks Hold Their Value

Why Reference Checks Hold Their Value

For many, 2020 has been a year of challenges and rapid change. Industries have had new ways of working thrust upon them. The talent acquisition process has been impacted. More people are searching for jobs, yet some roles remain unfilled.

Amid this flurry of activity, it pays to be mindful and mitigate risk. Don’t forget the tried and true methods supporting successful recruitment in an environment that is more agile than ever before.  What still adds value is reference checking and here is why:

Skills and capabilities

The fight for talent isn’t about the exact experience, rather it’s evidence of skills and capabilities.  Reference checks will highlight this as you consider a whole-of-person analysis.

In its article “Experience doesn’t predict a new hire’s success” Harvard Business Review states:

Past performance and existing knowledge and skills are more difficult to figure out, especially if all you have is an application or a résumé. But today, when everyone is complaining about the skills shortage and the war for talent, companies can’t afford to knock out candidates who would do really well but don’t have the experience that someone has chosen to put in the job description. You want to expand the pool of people you’re considering.

You should know who you are hiring.

If you have a clear understanding of what and who you want to employ, from the outset, the chance of a successful working relationship is greatly enhanced.  It’s easy to develop a checklist of competency-based requirements, but how do you also uncover the quality of a candidate’s experience?  It’s simple. Ask nominated referees behavioural, evidence-based questions; e.g. “when you have been tasked to increase sales how did you go about it?”  Ask open questions that require specific examples in response.

You will find the best fit when you take time to really know the candidate.

Obtaining references

When reference checking, look for confirmation of previous positions and what the roles entailed. Address specific skill-sets to ensure candidates are fit for purpose.

  • Reference checks should be sought from someone the candidate reported to, or a direct supervisor.
  • Consider whether the referee’s input supports what you’re reading on the resume or rejects it.

Why references matter

What are the implications of not doing reference checks?  Well, you won’t have the opportunity to:

  • Verify a resume’s content.
  • Learn more about your candidate of choice.
  • Have your assumptions supported or challenged.
  • Ask more questions to obtain a full picture of the candidate’s strengths and potential weaknesses.

Good practice*

  • Verify the authenticity of written references (for example, is a work email address used, is it on letterhead, does it have an authentic signature and so on).
  • Contact referees using corporate landline numbers to minimise the risk of a fictitious referee.
  • Call the organisation’s main phone number or HR department to verify candidate and referee roles such as job titles.
  • If organisations are reluctant to provide information, consider using a signed release form to facilitate information sharing between organisations.
  • Verify information obtained from one reference check with additional reference checks and other types of employment screening checks.
  • Ensure consent is obtained for conducting reference checks.
  • To avoid contacting a current employer unnecessarily and jeopardising a candidate’s current employment, consider contacting current employers only for preferred candidates, after other referees have been contacted and at the end of the screening process.

For any business,  in-depth and probative reference checks will always be money well spent.

VerifyNow can help.  Learn about the types of reference checks we can undertake for you.  For more advice and information, contact us to discuss.

 * Source: The NSW ICAC Strengthening employment screening practices in the NSW public sector report – February 2018. icac.nsw.gov.au You can download the report here.

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