Are you wasting your time with reference checking?


Inertia is the resistance of any physical object to change in its state of motion. We often see this phenomena demonstrated in human behavior when it comes to the traditional reference check process.

The staff at Checkster was pleased to see the below article, as it reinforces what we have been saying about reference checks. If done poorly, reference checks are a waste of time. When done well, they are THE most important assessment method.

See the article from Charles Van Heerden:

"The poor cousin of the recruitment process is the obligatory reference check. Too often it is nothing more than a perfunctory procedure to conclude an exhausting number of interviews.

Most reference checks are the outcome of a telephone conversation, as most recruiters will attach little weight to any written references. Many companies have policies prohibiting managers from providing written references, in light of potential litigation. Often the risks of providing references are overstated, resulting in limited information being provided, due to concerns about negligent referral or defamation. Privacy laws govern the contacting of referees and keeping of information. Though recruiters adopt a code of professional practice, the risk of hiring managers using their informal network to get anecdotal half-truths remains problematic.

A reference check is not a fishing expedition or idle gossip, but a structured and important part of the hiring process. Research has indicated that reference checks have about half the validity of structured interviews.

The declining value of reference checking services is because it is badly done, rather than being of little value. The big challenge for recruiters is to develop a new and better way of conducting reference checks with a higher validity so that they can be more useful.

A Strategic Approach to Reference Checking
There are three very deliberate and strategic actions that recruiters can adopt to achieve significantly better results from reference checking. Having successfully implemented this approach in a number of companies, have also resulted in better retention of top talent.

(a) 360 Reference Checking
Extrapolating the benefits from 360 feedback systems, recruiters need to adopt a wider and more comprehensive approach by including:
Executives (one over one); Direct Manager; Peers; Direct reports; Clients and customers.
It is not sufficient to conduct only a minimum of two reference checks, which seems to be the general practice in many companies."

continue reading here.