Candidate Reference Checking

Non- existent or inadequate candidate reference checking is a common theme in poor recruitment and selection decisions. A recent high profile case in Melbourne serves as a classic example of systemic failure to conduct adequate reference checking from a recruitment agency, HR, executive and board level perspective before the event*.

Sadly many cases arise where candidates, surprisingly, do not perform to expectations on the job or worse still, their presented background and qualifications are found later to have been a fabrication.

In all cases the basic quality control measure of ensuring a successful hire – bullet proof reference checks, was missing.

With over twenty five years of working in the recruitment industry I have seen many of the tricks. The following is a list of high risk strategies:

Not reference checking at all

Quality reference checking with carefully qualified referees is a key element in the selection success story. I am still amazed at how many employers don’t check references at all or leave it till after the candidate is hired as an administrative follow-up.

Not checking with the right referees

Employers will often incorrectly assume that the only referees available to them are the ones that the candidate nominates. Employers have every right to ask for the referees they want – ask for two recent supervisors/employers, a peer, and a subordinate. While that mix may not always be possible, the point is that employers should be talking with people who have actually worked with the candidate on a daily basis within the last five to seven years.

Qualify Referees

Many candidates will provide a mobile phone number for their referees. Ensure you verify that this is a legitimate referee and not a mate or a nominee pretending to be the candidate’s referee. This is a common mistake for untrained and inexperienced hiring managers, interviewers and recruiters.

At getselected we have developed a reference checking system that digs deep and exposes make believe referees and sham candidate backgrounds.

Asking the Wrong Questions

Just asking about job performance will not necessarily point to the best candidate for the job. We strongly believe that the use of behavioural based referee questions gives the best insight into the candidate. You need to know:

  1. Can the candidate do the job?
  2. Will the candidate fit into your culture?
  3. Does the candidate have integrity (says what they do and do what they say)?
  4. Is the referee a source of trusted, open and honest information?

Asking the right probing open ended questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” answer will assist you to qualify your candidate’s suitability for a position.

Professional Third Party Reference Checking

Careful and thorough reference checking requires time, training and experience. Outsourcing your reference checking to an experienced third party can avoid bias creeping into the process from an agency or management perspective.  People with potential vested interests or lack of application or experience can often ‘hear what they want to hear’ which can result in poor decision making.  This is a lesson Myer might well have recently learned and one to avoid!

See how we can assist you to ‘bullet proof’ your candidate reference checking. Check out my profile and call me for an obligation free chat.

Penny Perkins

M: + 61 (0) 411 541542


*Google Duped: Myer mystery man stays hiddenfor the full story