Manual vs. Automated Reference Checking: Which is Best For My Company?


According to a Society for Human Resource Management survey, three out of every four organizations polled reported conducting reference checks on all job candidates. For most organizations, reference checking is a standard part of the hiring process. In the past, a reference check typically involved a phone conversation between a potential employer and an individual who knew the job candidate. Today, automated reference checking has opened up a new way of collecting useful insights from past employers and coworkers.

How do you know which approach is right for your business? Start by asking yourself the following questions:

Which Is the Most Feasible, Efficient and Cost-Effective?

The decision to use manual vs automated reference checking often rests on which is the most practicable and effective for your organization. Manual checking tends to take longer and require much more of a hiring manager's time. This means that traditional reference checking is often more costly as well, depending upon the size of your organization and the number of hires you need to make.

Is Your Company Large With a Regular Influx of Job Openings? Automated checking is probably a great solution. Larger companies often standardize process and find it faster and more cost-effective to utilize an automated process. Calling each and every reference takes a substantial amount of time, and automated checking can eliminate much of the time wasted trying to track down the individuals listed as references. Where a traditional phone interview might require more than an hour per applicant of a hiring manager's time, automated checks often require as little as two minutes.

Is Your Company Growing Faster Than Your Talent Acquisition? In this case, automated checking can help ensure that your hiring pace tracks with the speed of your company’s growth. Fast-growing companies face unique challenges when checking references. In some cases, new positions may open up faster than HR departments can keep up. Outsourcing and automating the reference checking process makes it easier to companies to scale their reference checking and fill those important job openings as quickly as possible with the best possible candidates.

Which Offers the Best Assessment of Job Applicants?

In addition to considering which approach is the most efficient and cost-effective for your company, you also need to think about which method will offer the best insights into job applicants. Consider the sort of information that you are really trying to get out of a reference check? First, you want to verify details from an applicant’s resume such as job titles, salary history, education and employment dates. You also want to gain insight into a candidate’s talents, aptitudes and past job performance.

Manual checks can be a great way to gain information, but they also take up a great deal of time and consequently you end up speaking with less people. You might end up spending a lot of time chatting with a former supervisor, who happen to be the candidate best friend, hence gain very little real information about the applicant’s job performance.

Automated checks tend to be more standardized and make it easier for organizations to quickly assess potential employees by reaching many more references. It is not unusual with Checkster to have 6 references. Individuals listed as references receive a link via email to survey that they can complete at their own convenience. Hiring managers receive detailed reports that offer valuable insights into past performance, behavioral aptitudes and potential fit with company culture.

Which Protects You From Legal Liability?

An additional point of concern rests with potential legal implications of reference checking. You can legally request information related to an applicant’s past job performance. While this seems like a simple principle to adhere to, manual reference checks can make things tricky. Some references might be unwilling to talk much to you out of fear of legal ramifications while making you waste valuable time. Another issue is if you ask illegal questions and divulge unwanted personal information about the applicant that can make you liable.

Automated reference checks can help minimize this possibility by creating a safe and secure way for people to share their assessments of former employees. It also helps keep references on topic and focused on the things that you are really interested in such as past job performance and work history.

Which reference checking approach seems best-suited to the needs of your company?


About The Author

Yves Lermusi (aka Lermusiaux) is CEO & co-founder of Checkster. Mr. Lermusi is a well known public speaker and a Career and Talent industry commentator. He is often quoted in the leading business media worldwide, including Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Business Week, and Time Magazine. His articles and commentary are published regularly in online publications and business magazines. Mr. Lermusi was named one of the “100 Most Influential People in the Recruiting Industry” and his blog has been recognized as the best third party blog.