Reference checking - the essential element in a successful recruitment process

17 August 2011 

Kelly Services is warning employers to not underestimate the value of reference checking in the recruitment process. 

Penny O’Reilly, General Manager, Kelly Services said, “Reference checking is a vital step in the recruitment process, but employers often don’t consider it to be as important as other stages. By conducting reference checks you can avoid finding out the hard way that a candidate has misrepresented themselves when applying for a position. 

“It is crucial that employers verify the information presented on a candidate’s resume is factual and reference checking is a great way to assess a person’s work ethic, reliability and personality traits. 

“Effective reference checking is an art. Unfortunately it’s an art that many hiring managers cannot master, so it is regularly overlooked. The challenge is to get the information you need without overstepping the legal boundaries. 

“The increased trend towards using social media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook to reference check candidates demonstrates the fact that increasingly hiring managers are reluctant to pick up the phone and make personalised reference check calls. Social media should not be used as a substitute to personal conversations with a candidate’s previous manager.” 

According to Kelly Services, reference checking is as important to the hiring process as the interview. Reference checking provides employers with an opportunity to ask about issues raised by other referees or identified from other stages of the selection process. 

Kelly has developed four tips for conducting a reference check. 

  1. Only deal with direct managers. When conducting a reference check you have to clearly establish the working relationship between the candidate and the referee. Previous managers and superiors are more likely to answer questions about working habits and capabilities rather than peers who may be friends with that employee.
     
  2. Ask specific questions relating to the skills required for the job. There are four key checks that employers need to focus on when conducting a reference check. 
    • Performance check. Ask questions like, ‘can you give me an example of the candidate performing x task’? 
    • Behavioural and reliability check. Ask questions like, ‘can you give me an example of how diligent and reliable the candidate was’? 
    • Motivational check. Ask questions like, ‘can you give me examples of ways the candidate was looking for new ways to learn and grow’? 
    • Technical skills check. This gets into the nitty gritty of the job at hand. Make sure you ask questions that will identify that the candidate knows and has certain skills. Where possible, ask for examples to back it up. 
     
  3. Avoid offensive questions that could be considered discriminatory. These include questions relating to marital status, physical appearance, sexual preference, family/child care arrangements, or health, unless you can demonstrate that they are an inherent requirement of the position. Any comments or criticisms relating to an applicant’s disability, gender, race, or other potential grounds for discrimination are not relevant and should be disregarded.
     
  4. Don’t ask closed questions. Don’t ask questions where a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer is provided. All answers should follow with a reason why. Employers need to pull the strings further to get more usable and useful information. Listing achievements and different impressions must be followed with a ‘why’. 


“Every employer wants to make sure they are hiring the right person for the job, which is why comprehensive reference checking should be carried out appropriately every time,” O’Reilly said.
 


Media contact:
Michelle Taylor
Recognition PR
02 9252 2266
mct@recognition.com.au 

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