How Reference Checks Are More Powerful Than Modern Day Resumes


While the hiring process has traditionally focused on the power of the resume, recent shifts suggest that employers may be ready to look beyond education and experience and focus more on talent and performance. According to a recent Wall Street Journal report, some employers have begun implementing a process known as “blind hiring.” Resume information such as name and college education are redacted so that hiring managers can instead focus on what matters – talent.

What else is behind this shift away from the standard resume? Many employers are becoming increasingly aware of the unconscious biases that affect the hiring process and inevitably impact a company's success. Members of HR all bring their own unique mix of personality traits, attitudes, beliefs and cognitive biases to the employee selection process.

New tools and methods have begun to emerge that bypass such biases and refocus hiring efforts where they truly belong, on determining which candidates are best for a particular position.

Why Reference Checks Might Be Your Most Powerful Tool

So if the resume is an outdated way to look for talent, what resources should employers use to assess whether potential employees are capable of performing a job well? One often overlooked tool is the reference check. Unfortunately, reference checking has traditionally been cast aside and seen simply as a last-minute, pre-hire obligation. All too many employers only use the reference check to verify past employment before making a job offer.

This is unfortunate because it is the reference check that can provide the greatest amount of insight into what you need to know – how likely the applicant is to succeed in the position. When you want to evaluate the potential for success, the absolute best metric to look at is past success. The reference check is not merely a way to verify reference information and look for potential red flags; it allows hiring managers to get an in-depth look at how well candidates did in similar roles, how long they stayed in those roles and how former supervisors rate that individual’s skills, performance and potential.

The trick is that these reference checks need to be done right.

A poor reference check is unlikely to yield valuable information about job skills, work history and organizational fit. The traditional check involves calling former employers and asking a few stock questions about employment dates and job titles. This process is all-to-often dismissed as a tedious waste of time because this method rarely produces any real insight into a candidate’s real talent and potential.

How to Make Reference Checks Work for You

So what can you do to revitalize this process and realize the true value of the reference checking process?

[Read more: Best Reference Check Questions]

Switching to automated reference checking is one way to revamp your efforts and, at the same time, produce far more effective results. This process works by having each candidate email a survey link to their reference. Former supervisors can then access the survey whenever it is most convenient for them and provide candid, in-depth feedback on multiple aspects of the applicant’s work history and talents. Where references might feel less sure about discussing certain things over the phone, they are more likely to be honest and open thanks to the anonymity offered by the online survey form.

Because you’ll be getting more intensive feedback on things like work history, talent, performance and personality, you will be in a much better position to evaluate whether the candidate will be a good fit for your company. The automate reference check also helps eliminate one of the critical shortcomings associated with resumes – bias. All reference checks are conducted in the same way, allowing hiring professionals effectively compare candidates based upon key variables.

Resumes may not be going away quite yet, but it is time for employers to start looking beyond these standard work histories and start looking for more effective solutions for identifying real talent. Automated reference checking is one solution that can reduce or eliminate major biases and lead to better quality hires.

How could automated reference check service improve your hiring process?