Turn Your Reference-Checking Woes into Successes

November 7, 2018 | SkillSurvey | HCI
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Do you remember that bad apple? How a wrong hiring decision can be prevented with a detailed reference check

It’s the season for fall apple picking and it’s the time when hiring kicks into high gear. But even if your organization is facing a bushel of open requisitions, you might want to think again before you bypass a critical step in the hiring process – a detailed reference check.

Every recruiter has one (or a few) bad apples spoiling the bunch of great hiring decisions they’ve made. They are the ones they’d like to forget. It happened when potential issues about a candidate were overlooked because the position needed to be filled right away. But some bad apples slipped in even after a rigorous hiring process with multiple screens and interviews. The job candidates were so stellar on paper and in the interviews, that when it came to reference checking, the hiring decision-makers listened to the voice inside that warns, ‘reference checking…. it’s a flawed process and such a pain … oh why bother?’


Reference checks can provide the critical information you need to support your hiring decision.

Yes, you can ensure your interviews are thorough, you can offer skills tests, and you can background check. But without reference checking, you forgo learning about the strongest predictor of future performance, a candidate’s past performance. And, you miss out on hearing their managers’ and co-workers’ insights and observations into candidates’ skill level, work habits (like do they meet their deadlines or reach sales goals) and personality traits (how well do they get along with their peers) – the incredibly important soft skills.

This 100 Reasons Infographic has a ton more reasons you might want to rethink reference checking. With new reference checking technology at your side, you can sidestep the hassles and other apprehensions you and other recruiters may have about reference checking. It takes just over a day to get quality, job-related insights on your candidates – plus info on their strengths and areas of improvement.

Online reference checking provides significant benefits over traditional phone-based reference checks.

Traditional reference checks Online reference checking
You get faulty information that is subject to interpretation. Many times, references route you to HR to provide a standard confirmation of employment dates. You’re lucky to reach one or two references who can provide usable information. You’re left guessing whether someone wouldn’t talk to you or just couldn’t talk to you per policy. You get more honest feedback about a candidate by allowing references to provide confidential responses. Candidates sign a waiver and enter their five references. Individual feedback will remain confidential and will only be provided to the hiring organization in a report that summarizes the information. That means references needn’t worry about providing completely candid feedback. More than 85% typically respond.

It takes too long. The whole process, whether it’s by mail, email or phone, takes way too long, often weeks. You take notes and spend more time compiling that information – especially if you have to compare information across several candidates. Your candidates may lose patience and seek a job elsewhere.

It’s fast, convenient and nets more useful information.  With cloud-based digital reference-checking tech, all a recruiter has to do is enter the candidate, and select the job-specific survey that matches their role. Or, if its integrated into an ATS or CRM, it’s even easier. References will get an email or text message from the candidate that includes a link to a job-specific online survey which takes less than 10 minutes to complete. They will assess your candidate on a wide variety of competencies that are related to the job you’re filling.

Your time or team’s time is better spent on key priorities like sourcing new talent. No one likes playing phone tag or being bogged down with reporting, especially when they’ve got a lot of roles to fill.

Reference checking can help you build a new talent pipeline. For example, with SkillSurvey Source®, you can find new candidates through references and referrals while you’re reference checking and invite them to join your talent pool.  

Beware of the shortcomings of screenings or assessments commonly used in the hiring process

If you rely solely on gleaning information about your applicants from information they supply on their own, you’re taking a big risk—HireRight’s 2017 Employment Screening Benchmark Report  of 4,000 HR professionals found that 85% of respondents discovered a “lie or misrepresentation” on a candidate’s resume or job application during screening, up from 66% in 2012. If you’re avoiding reference checks, altogether, you may want to check out this handy online comparison guide.  Candidate self-assessments, while they can be done in about a day, reveal how they might perform on the job (or think they perform) – not how they actually have performed. Consider, too, the possibility that applicants may seek help completing it (if it’s online), and that they may give answers they think employers want.

Skills tests, too, only give you part of the picture. While you get a sense of whether a candidate can perform in a certain job function, you don’t gain any information about how they might perform in a real environment. This is where soft skills, for example, leadership abilities, how they get along with others on a team, or how they perform under stress comes into play.

Social media has plenty of accessible information about your candidate’s career history, education and work life and work endorsements. If all that information is online, there’s no need to reference check anymore, right? Most of the information you can find on social sites is curated by the job candidate so it’s not exactly un-biased. Additionally, you risk compliance if information that is used to make hiring decisions is not job-related.

The Easy Way to Reference Check

Instead, reference check the smart way. SkillSurvey’s research has proven that reference feedback is predictive and helps reduce first-year turnover. For example, SkillSurvey reference feedback reports provide hiring managers with predictive analytics to help them make more informed hiring decisions. The result: on average, organizations using the tech report a 35% reduction in first-year turnover.

Find out how the benefits of online reference-checking can make your recruiting program easier and more effective.