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Reference checking - why it's the most important step in the recruitment process

Kate Allen, Managing Director, Allen Associates

Your search is coming to a close. Finally, a light at the end of the recruitment tunnel comes in the form of a Candidate who ticks every box – that is, if the information they have provided in their interview and application is correct.

You may have stalked their social media and snooped through recommendations, but how can you be sure a Candidate isn’t overselling themselves, or omitting a significant stain on their Employment history?

As useful as an interview may be in putting a face to the name and learning more about what drives your chosen Candidate, it’s often hard to gauge how they will perform as an Employee from a meeting alone. The only way to ensure your Employee-to-be has told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth is to check their references.

Gaining valuable insight

Though references may not be required by law for most jobs, it is common practice and can often provide that much-needed reassurance that you have made the right decision. Managers who bypass this stage, beware: reference checking may be a tedious process, but it could save you a great deal of time and fuss in the long-run. Even a few lines can tell you all you need to know about the suitability of the Candidate at hand.

We all have skeletons in our closet; moments in our work history we’d rather forget. However, a quick chat or email exchange with your Candidate’s former Employers should either help to put your mind at ease or at least alert you of any potential warning signs before it’s too late. You will also gain greater insights into the Candidate's skillset, knowledge and workplace presence from someone who has seen it for themselves.

Securing the highest calibre Candidate

Having spent significant time sourcing and screening Candidates, it’s understandable why you might be eager to take their word and make an offer when you finally find someone who meets the requirements of the role. If you’re really excited about a Candidate, you should dedicate as much time into checking his or her references to ensure you truly are getting your hands on the best in the market.

At this crucial stage, you may not want to ask the questions that could potentially trigger an end to the application, such as what weaknesses they may have shown or how they behaved in challenging situations. However, when push comes to shove, your job is to find the Candidate who will benefit the business, not the applicant who gave the best interview.

While you should always keep an open mind and remember that people grow and learn from their mistakes, a series of negative answers might make you change your mind on that “perfect Candidate.”

Avoiding unnecessary cost

The last thing you need is for a new hire to let you down and force you to start the recruitment process from scratch. If you think you’ve found a professional who is a perfect match for the position, taking that extra couple of hours to get a second and third opinion could help you to you can avoid costs associated with failed probation periods and poor performance.

It goes without saying that high turnover can negatively affect your finances, but don’t forget that your reputation is on the line. In the long-term, bad recruitment decisions can erode your employer brand, impact your ability to attract high quality talent and diminish the service you deliver to clients. Instead of cutting corners to save time in the short-term, always consider the bigger picture: failure to check references could come back to haunt you after what you believed to be a successful hire.

Over the last 20 years, we have grown as a business to become one of the leading independent Recruitment agencies in Oxfordshire, and in 2018 have opened our first London office, to service Clients in the capital.

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