Healthcare Talent Leaders Discuss How to Leverage Reference Checking More Strategically in the Hiring Process
Attracting and retaining the right talent can be tough. It takes a lot of resources to do it right, but when done right, it has a huge impact on the success of an organization. One element of the hiring process that can prove a real strategic asset is automated, online reference checking. As part of a webinar panel hosted by Human Capital Institute held earlier this year, two healthcare talent leaders discussed how reference checking technology is changing their hiring process. William Poynter, Director of Talent Acquisition for Health South, and Shawnee Irmen, VP of Talent Acquisition for Golden Living, focused in on some of the biggest benefits of hiring-related technology.
Leveraging Data to Find Quality Talent
With about 6,500 hires a year, Poynter leverages technology to help ensure a high quality workforce. “Quality is definitely a top priority for us. So really being able to identify the right fit and tools that help you identify that quicker and more accurately, such as online reference checking and other assessments that we use, is definitely going to help. It also helps us deliver feedback to the candidates as they apply for positions to make sure they’re the right fit, whether it’s from a culture standpoint or skill standpoint.”
Benefits of online reference checking include increased confidence making decisions, more focused interviews and onboarding, and the ability to track the success of decisions over time (thereby helping to influence future process corrections). Golden Living is about to implement the technology solution across hundreds of additional locations. “…it took me less than ninety seconds to have our leadership approve the overall cost to implement in [more than 300] locations.” Says Irmen.
Meaningful Reference Checks
Technology has brought reference checking full circle. Years ago, calling a reference led to helpful discussion about a candidate and their strengths and weaknesses. As legal concerns increased, however, reference checking became less and less helpful, with references often only able to confirm dates of employment and titles. Now, with tools like Pre-Hire 360, professional references can answer a brief survey online and anonymously, providing rich feedback once again.
When asked to respond to those who claim ‘reference checking doesn’t work,’ Poynter said, “Back when we did manual reference checks… it was hit or miss with what information you would get so how much stock could you really put in them?” Because of the vast differences in quantity and quality of data coming back via manual checks, and the time and energy it took to track down feedback, the process really wasn’t very useful on a regular basis without a technology-driven solution.
Checking references by phone can take days or weeks, including the time to track people down with multiple calls and messages. And then the quality of response is inconsistent and often lacking. Being able to get a report in 2-3 days with the key information you need scored and summarized frees up time and resources. Those can then be turned toward more strategic efforts with greater business impact.
More Time to be Strategic
Each of the organizations implements the reference check process at slightly different points in their process, but each has thought through where it will be most beneficial for their organization. HealthSouth kicks off the 360 surveys once someone has successfully gone through the phone screening stage. Golden Living triggers the surveys as soon as an interview has been scheduled. The way that it fits into the process also impacts the way Hiring Managers benefit.
Building Credibility with Hiring Managers
The Human Resources team should be a trusted, reliable source of support for hiring managers, who typically do not have hiring expertise. Irmen states, “I believe that HR is responsible for training managers how to not only screen candidates but how to conduct and close an interview as well as how to follow up and respond… ensuring that they are competent and comfortable and prepared for the interview… with the candidate is extremely, extremely important. We’ve been able to do that with the reference feedback reports. It’s an absolutely great resource for us that our hiring managers trust and use as a tried and true method.” The data has allowed Golden Livings’s HR team to be a better partner, building rapport with their hiring managers based on trust built through data and proven results.
Poynter points out how hard facts can increase Hiring Managers’ satisfaction with the value delivered from the HR team. “One of the things we did with SkillSurvey… was put it early in the process… By doing that and getting a quick turnaround time we’re able to have the results from references in a format that the managers can easily review before they actually bring the candidate in for an interview.” He adds, “One thing we’ve noticed… is the excitement that the hiring managers get over the data from references as opposed to just a resume or a cover letter… that this is actually quantifiable data that they can look at and sort of compare the candidate through the process of interviewing and with other candidates. That’s been a big benefit for us.”
More Focused Interviews & Tailored Onboarding
Once reference and assessment data has been collected, it can be used immediately to focus interviews and increase the effectiveness of onboarding and training. If a specific area is noted as a potential weakness in a candidate, hiring managers can dig into that area during an interview, probing to understand whether or not there should be concern for the role in question.
Taking the data from Pre-Hire 360 allows hiring managers to be prepared and direct in the interviews. They also know which areas the candidate is strong in and can investigate ways to best leverage that strength. Both hiring leaders agree that they would not make a negative hiring decision based on an area of weakness, but that they value to opportunity to use that data in a constructive way during the hiring process. After a candidate has been hired, results from the reference surveys can be used to help tailor an onboarding and training program that addresses specific strengths and weaknesses based on past performance.