January 30th, 2018 | Sterling

The Importance of Conducting Reference Checks

A CV can only tell you so much about a job candidate. It is great for determining a candidate’s qualifications and experiences, but won’t show how your candidate behaved on the job every day. One study found that job candidates frequently give misleading information about their length of stay with a former organisation, job titles, job responsibilities or college credentials. In fact, 53% of all job applications contain inaccurate information from fabricating a college degree, listing false employers or jobs that did not exist. Failing to perform due diligence when hiring could result in a bad hire, which could cost a company thousands of pounds.

An employment background check provides a detailed look at a new hire, giving organisations the insight they need to make an informed hiring decision. Sterling published “Background Screening in the UK-Best Practices to Make Informed Hiring Decisions.” The report looks at nine of the most common pre-employment checks in the UK, including reference checks. The eBook details what each check entails, explains why employers conduct each check and provides some practical considerations that may improve a company’s background screening programme.

The “Background Screening in the UK” Report shares examples of red flags that have appeared in our data. Discrepancies pop up when the information provided by the candidate does not match what is found by the screening provider. Based on our background screening results, employees in the business services industry (29%) may be more likely to have a red flag in their reference checks. From a specific job title perspective, account managers at 51% are three times more likely to have a discrepancy in their reference check as compared to other employee titles such as director, sales person or consultant.

What Are Reference Checks?

Reference checks go beyond the basics to find out more about your candidate. They empower hiring managers to speak with former supervisors to reveal a candidate’s strengths, weaknesses and overall performance. They are also an invaluable opportunity to gain insight into an applicant’s work ethic, integrity and personality. Plus, reference checks enable facts and claims made on a CV or during the interview process to be explored further. Candidate advocates or referees can confirm, question, dispute or decline to respond if they are uncertain of an answer. If reference checks are done well, they can give hiring managers critical information helping to identify if the candidate will be successful in their new job.

Conducting proper reference checks can be very time consuming for hiring managers, but if corners are cut, steps are bypassed and important questions aren’t asked, employers may not get to know the real candidate. A reference check is a critical step in the hiring process where you can learn key details about the candidate such as:

  • Were they really a top performer?
  • Did they have great attendance?
  • Were they a pleasure to work with?
  • Is their CV or job application truthful?

In a competitive employment market, more and more candidates feel the need to stand out from the crowd and may be tempted to exaggerate skills, previous positions and requirements on their CV or during an interview. A CV typically presents the most positive view of a candidate’s performance and relationships within the working environment, so it’s necessary to contact all references for a thorough vetting process. Reference checks can also highlight the softer skills of the candidate like approachability, communication and collaboration skills.

Benefits of Having a Third-Party Reference Check Solution

Reference checks require time management skills and persistence in order to get the information you need to make the best hiring decision. Probing for answers is a very special skill and requires thorough training in order to communicate questions effectively and gain sufficient information to make a robust hiring decision. The perfect set of carefully constructed questions will contribute to the overall success of the reference check and the overall process of investing in a new employee.

Third-party reference checks save organisations time and money and they are more affordable than in-house checks, as it gives the HR professional or hiring manager valuable time back that would have been spent making reference calls. A third-party provider’s time is more flexible and they are available when a referee calls back with a reference. Interviewers know how to get correct details the first time around as well as probe for more information when necessary. Most importantly, third-parties have never met the candidate, so there is no interviewer bias.

It is more important than ever to conduct education, employment verifications and reference checks directly with the source noted on the CV or application. Companies need to determine which type of background screening check is the most important to protect their employees and businesses. Download a complimentary copy of our “Background Screening in the UK-Best Practices to Make Informed Hiring Decisions” eBook to find out more about the types of background screening in the UK.

Explore Best Practices of Background Screening in the UK

This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.