Why Reference Checks Are Becoming a Thing of the Past

Why is it that we still rely on reference checks before we hire someone when everything else in the HR world is moving to a more data driven, analytical mindset? They are unreliable and most times are filled with bias. Once you reach the point of checking a potential employee’s references, you just want to fill the job and you’re only hearing the good things. The only question that may be worth asking is what it’s like to work with the person. Below are 3 guides on how to interpret different types of references:

The name & rank. This is the reference that tells you absolutely nothing that you couldn’t have found on LinkedIn. In these cases, more than likely you are going to get one of these, “I can only confirm hire dates”. When this happens, see if they are willing to answer questions like, “Why did the employee take the job,” and if you’re feeling lucky, ask if they know what their reason was for leaving.

It’s all about me. We’ve all been there. Even when you’ve called to find out if you should hire Barbara, you don’t actually ever talk about Barbara. By the end of your conversation, you have found out everything about what they’ve done instead. The reference giver will give a 10 minute spiel about how much they’ve done for the company or how Barbara would have never gotten to where she was if it weren’t for the help of him/her.

The backdoor. The least reliable and most sneakiest of references. This approach is primarily used when you really don’t want o hire the person, but you can’t come up with a good enough reason as to why. Insert: The “Backdoor” Reference. In this instance, you call up someone you used to work with who will give you all the dirt you need. At this point, it’s impossible for the hiring manager to change their mind. Then you’re left with trying to come up with a bogus reason as to why you’re not hiring them.

So you see, reference checks don’t give you the true quantitative information you need in determining whether the candidate is a good fit for your company or not. And to be honest, we have no other alternative as to what to do instead, but if you must do a reference check, find out things like, how they work under pressure or what are some good or not-so-good qualities about them.


About HR Strategies

HR Strategies is a private human resource management firm created to enable small business owners to focus on their core competencies, rather than the tedium of running payroll, providing employee benefits, or the many other facets of human resource administration. We allow business owners to concentrate on their passion, without being distracted by countless human resource responsibilities.

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