Article: Can reference checks be more than just verification?

#Background Checks

Can reference checks be more than just verification?

Reference checks are mostly used for verifying the information provided by a candidate on her CV. But can they be used for much more than a CV fact check? We find out.
Can reference checks be more than just verification?

More than 8 in 10 HR professionals conduct reference checks, says an SHRM research. Most of these reference checks, though, are limited to a background verification of information provided in the CV; surprisingly still, the fact check about length of employment have been discovered to be falsified for half of the surveyed. Another survey by OfficeTeam reveals that hiring managers eliminate 21 percent candidates based on their references. Hence underlining the importance of reference checks.

As important as information verification is, these reference checks could be used for something much more beyond that – they could be used for assessing a candidate’s fitment in the job and the organization. While reference checks might be in use for this purpose informally, a more organized effort towards utilizing reference checks can lead to greater benefits to a business.

A reference check strategy can be structured to get to know a candidate’s fitment in the role – both on the basis of skills and culture. A recent study by SkillSurvey (a reference checking company) of its database of 5,000 candidates and 20,000 references revealed that the cohorts of managers and co-workers had different answers from each other for different questions. Peers observed the candidates at a behavioural level, while the managers observed the candidates at a hard-skill level. In recruitment parlance, peers could give an idea if a person is a culture-fit, and managers could give a better insight into if the candidate is a technical-fit.

Although reference checks are used for assessing job-fitment of a candidate, but that happens quite informally. A more organized effort towards utilizing reference checks can lead to greater benefits to a business

The interview process has evolved with employers focusing on the assessment of both technical skills and soft skills to ensure an employee’s fitment in the organization. However, the evolution of the process in recent years hasn’t necessarily brought infant attrition down. According to another 2015 research by SHRM, one-third of the new hires quit within six months of joining. A research done in 2014 by Equifax workforce solutions revealed that more than half of voluntary turnover happens within a year of a candidate joining. This regression in turnover numbers of recent hires may make the optimists feel good about the hiring process; but the fact remains that people, on whom the organization has invested so much, end up leaving the company really soon. Innumerable factors are at play in swaying the employee’s decision to leave, but a ‘bad job fit’ is a standout reason among people leaving really early after joining.

The hiring process could use more robustness in the selection procedure, and this is where reference checks can be useful to hiring managers. They can work as another layer of verifying whether a candidate’s ex-peers say the same about her as her psychometric evaluation says about her.

In order to do so, hiring managers could begin by formalizing a reference call as a verification-cum-job-fit assessment call. The HR team could articulate a set of sharp questions to be asked during the reference check to know in-depth about the candidate’s soft skills. It is important to understand whether the candidate has the qualities that form the value system and the culture of the company, and equally important to be sure that he doesn’t possess any traits which are totally undesirable in the organization. Recruiters should be trained how to do an effective reference check, which is a quality check more of a factual check. A checklist with the questions, and an assessment scale alongside can help bring objectivity to the process as well.

It is important to understand whether the candidate has the qualities that form the value system and the culture of the company, and equally important to be sure that he doesn’t possess any traits which are totally undesirable in the organization.

The talent’s replacement can cost six to nine months of her salary. Combine with it the inefficiency cost of the bad hire, and organizations have a big potential business problem at hand. Effective reference checks can play an instrumental role in helping reduce the number of bad hires belonging to the culture-misfit category. If those 89% HR professionals who do a reference check for candidates can bring a structured job-fitment filtration to the process; it can help save them time they engage in hiring misfits replacements, save the business the cost associated to that bad hire, and preserve the talent’s capability by not bringing her to a place which does not get the best out of her.

Key Findings:

Here is what the co-workers and managers feel the candidate’s areas of strength and improvement are:

Topics: Background Verification

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