Forgotten references high risk for HR

Forgotten references high risk for HR

Forgotten references high risk for HR

When seeking tenants for a rental property, owners or agents methodically and ruthlessly check the tenant’s rental history, with good reason: there’s a lot on the line if they accept a tenant who goes on to trash the place. The same is true in HR, yet careful reference checking has slowly been slipping away, according to one recruitment specialist.

“Sometimes people conclude, erroneously, that there’s no point doing the reference check because who would write down the name of someone who wouldn’t say great things?” says Backcheck president and CEO Dave Dinesen. “There are a certain percentage of people out there who think they’re great and think other people are great but they’re not, and you only find out if you pick up the phone.”

Dinesen said over many years of checking references his company consistently found that 17 per cent of references are negative, or partly negative.

Employers often don’t consider reference-checking to be as important as other stages, but it can help to avoid recruiting an unsuitable candidate, or someone who has misrepresented themselves and their abilities.

Dineson offers these tips for checking references:

  • Eliminate bias. The person responsible for filling the role and doing interviews should not also do the reference checks.
  • Have a company-wide process. Consistency in what you’re asking and in recording what answers you get will ensure you also have consistent results.
  • Ask about specifics: job performance, interpersonal skills, room for improvement, how they respond to criticism. Avoid closed ended questions that would only elicit a yes or no answer. You can’t ask about some obvious factors, such as race or religion, but you also can’t ask about issues such as health, unless there’s a specific factor that’s directly relevant to the role.

What's the biggest surprise you learned from a reference check?


  • Ashley 2013-07-25 8:48:12 AM
    I have definitely encountered some poor reference checks before.

    I had one person interview for a Director-level role, and represent their experience as being in a similar level. However, one of her references described how the candidate was actually more of a coordinator than a Director, and expressed that they could not and would not recommend them for our role. Her other reference was for a small individually owned-and-operated business that would know nothing about being a Director at a larger company. It was very eye-opening and that candidate who was initially the front-runner was ultimately declined. Obviously this poor reference was a major issue, and we had also asked the candidate for work samples which proved to be entirely sub-par as well.

    So the moral of the story is - always check references!
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  • Kent 2013-07-25 9:35:45 AM
    We require references for our candidates but it is increasingly getting harder to get work references as some companies do not provide references. So we get the references of co-workers, friends, family. Who is going to give them a bad reference then.
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