There are plenty of examples of both low and high profile employees being investigated and removed from companies after it has been discovered that they do not have the experience or credentials they claimed they had on their CV and at the interview.
So how can we be certain we are hiring someone that actually has the experience and past employment history with a particular company?
While you may gather good information about past history and experience in the interview process, the answer is that it is largely through good reference checking.
There are a half dozen things you may want to consider during the reference checking portion of the recruitment process that may increase the likelihood of appointing the most successful new hire.
Are we really speaking to the right person?
How many times have we heard, “Reference checks are useless, they are always good.” Well that may certainly be the case if you ask a candidate for their referees, but how often do we ask for the referees that we want. The referees we, as hiring leaders most often want is their direct supervisors, and particularly the one they have most recently worked for without jeopardizing their confidentiality. Most recent performance can be a strong indicator of future performance in many roles and a good fix on that information generally comes from a direct manager.
What about that mobile number and email address?
While it is symptomatic of the reference information you would get from a clear-cut dishonest candidate, we cannot always be certain the person at the other end of that email address or mobile number is a legitimate referee. This is particularly true of those referees that the candidate says will only respond to their Gmail or Hotmail email request. There are some safety nets in our concerns though. A quick look at LinkedIn may give us some comfort that the referee actually exists, and a call to the company switchboard may verify they work there. However, the best course of action is to push for company email addresses if on-line reference checking is part of your hiring repertoire, and when reference checking via a mobile phone, toss in a question or two about some specifics that will verify the referees authenticity and provide you comfort.
What if they don’t have a recent referee?
There are most certainly times when we see what may be the ideal candidate who has just left after working for an extended period of time with the sort of company we most like to hire from. The candidate may come from a company that has the same culture or workforce as ours, and we think from the outset of the interview process that we may have a strong possible appointment. It may be worth including in your arsenal of interview questions earlier in the interview process, “Who will be your referee from your last employer?” If the candidate indicates that they would struggle to get a referee, or they will only verify employment, there may be something lurking in the past that makes that candidate less than ideal, and you may want to politely reconsider your approach to his/her application.
They may be good, but how can they be better?
So, you have finally gotten to the end of who knows how many applications, and you are in the process of reference checking your preferred candidate. Despite your best reference checking questions, and to your delight, everything is sounding wonderful and you are just hoping that Mr. or Ms. Just Right will accept the offer you are already thinking about tabling. During gleeful moments such as these, think not so much about how right they are, but what sort of training or further experience in particular areas would they need, to be even better, and to be an even greater contributor for your company. You may have asked the candidate where they may want to be in the next 3-5 years. What does the referee think?
Do referees get excited too?
There is most certainly a tightening in the market with specific skills, and when that happens candidates can get snapped up at a moment’s notice. While you never want to jeopardize the quality of your recruitment process, it is important to be mindful of the hidden employer. The referee. There are a multitude of instances where you may be reference checking past employers that the candidate has given you permission to contact, only to remind the referee that the candidate is looking for another job, and yes, they attest to how good they were. It is a bit upsetting to find out after you finally got approval to hire that new wonderful employee, that their old employer has re-hired them. It’s always best to keep the process moving at a steady pace after you are satisfied they are for you.
What Should We Also Remember?
No matter how much of a heads up we may be giving the candidate to get their referees sorted (and to have them tell us how good they are), always get the candidate’s permission to speak to a referee. It is never a good look when you contact a referee that they didn’t know the candidate was looking because they hadn’t spoken yet. When doing a reference check try as best you can to establish a rapport with the referee so they feel as comfortable as possible to openly share their views on the candidate. You can appreciate it may be difficult for a referee to confide that you may not have the best person for the role.
Keep in mind that you are an ambassador for your company when reaching out to others for information on a candidate, and if you elect to have a Human Resource Consultant undertake your recruitment for you, pick one that will be experienced and professional on your behalf.