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On reference checks: why you’re messing up & how to fix it

If you ever have questions and wonders about reference checking during hiring process, this episode is made for you! You’ll be able to find the video and transcript below. We hope you’ll find it helpful!


Do you have your trench coat, note pad, and magnifying lens ready? Today we’ll talk about reference checks. Welcome back to the Tea on Recruiting, where we share insightful and thought-provoking content that can help you shape your recruiting career!

Let’s check out the first article I picked.

It’s Time to Scrap Reference Checking – Here is Why

If you’re on the fence about reference checks, this’ll be interesting. We’ve read “It’s Time to Scrap Reference Checking – Here is Why”. A quote to put you in the right mood? – “This practice is more than broken – it is useless.” According to Ed Nathanson, these are some of the issues with reference checks:

Issue number one: They’re approached like a box to check.

Problem number two: They’re, more often than not, done by recruiters, not hiring managers. In fact, most hiring managers rarely ever read them.

Problem number three: The questions are designed to either discredit or affirm a candidate, not much is learned in the process.

Problem number four: Naturally, candidates only put you in touch with someone who has a great opinion of them – and sometimes they tell them what to tell you!

Five: Sometimes, reference checks are gathered through a fill-in form, which is very annoying for the reference. It can even happen that the candidate gives the same reference for multiple job postings…

So, how do you fix this mess?!

  • First of all, hire a background check vendor for verification, never for references.
  • Ask for the candidate’s former managers – not their current managers, nor people they worked for in prehistoric times.
  • If you will ask for references, have a game plan of what you hope to achieve. How about questions on how best to work with them/manage them and what was successful in the past in doing so?
  • Or… skip reference checks altogether. There’s no reference check police!

The author believes it’s best to only do the basics, such as employment dates, and criminal check, and to train hiring managers to improve at interviewing and selecting talent.

And now, it’s time for our second article!

Maximize the Effectiveness of Background Verification Companies

The title of the second article I’ve read is “Maximize the Effectiveness of Background Verification Companies”. The author of the previous article prefers sticking to the basics when it comes to reference checks. So, there are still some you shouldn’t skip.Here are two key features you need from your vendors:

  • Prioritizing Candidate Experience. Make the process streamlined, transparent, and respectful of your job applicant’s time.
  • ATS integration. You’ll avoid double entry issues, and it lets recruiters select candidates for background screening, so you can see what’s been completed in real-time.

Now, here are some background check processes that your vendors should automate:

  • Automated drug screenings let your candidates choose the best testing facility for them, and automate notifications of completion all while sending you the results.
  • Allow your candidates to securely review and sign required disclosure and authorization documents for better compliance and to improve record-keeping.
  • One-stop shopping. It improves productivity and your budget.
  • Automating adverse action notifications.

Now onto the…

CandE Crash

The more barbaric your treatment of candidates, the more demonic their reviews… Or their social media posts about you.

A Reddit user shared his cringe-worthy experience. He got rejected on a Saturday night at around 10 pm. What a buzzkill! Not exactly what you wish to see while you’re relaxing during the weekend. The user thinks this was caused by a poorly queued automated rejection email. So, please, make sure to queue them for normal business hours. But wait, it gets more interesting… In the comment section below, someone wrote “On Friday I got a call from a company I applied to a year ago asking me to call the recruiter over this weekend because he works 7 days a week. No. Just no.” I’m lost for words. Is that even legal?

Got something to say about this? Drop a comment below, we’d love to pick your brains. Help us get better at helping you get better: with your help!

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