The hiring process can be both exhilarating and daunting. As companies grow, fresh blood (meaning new candidates, new skill sets) is always an enticing endeavor. But as many human resource professionals will point out, it can also be an uphill climb. Once interviews are done and candidates have been narrowed down, from the hundreds, sometimes thousand that are vetted, hiring managers can become overwhelmed and make some crucial mistakes when it comes time to check references.

4 Common Reference Check Mistakes to Be Aware Of

Assigning someone else to check references

Many times the process of checking references is deemed as an administrative function and relegated to junior staffers. This is a serious concern, especially when dealing with management candidates. It is reasonable that credential verification can be outsourced or delegated down but reference checks should not be given to junior staff to carry out. It needs to be conducted personally by the hiring manager or a credible recruiter firm. As the hiring manager, you have the best hands on knowledge of the candidate you are vetting, so it is up to you to speak directly with references to best determine if they are a good fit for your company.

Making the mistake of not cross referencing

Social media is going to be with us for a very long time. As such, many candidates have resume-style profiles on places such as LinkedIn. It is a fairly safe bet that if you are hiring a Generation Y or Millennial, they are on LinkedIn. But, older candidates are getting the hint and creating digital portfolios and resumes as well. Information service hubs, employer websites and LinkedIn are great places to cross check references. Doing so allows the hiring manager to see if there are any discrepancies between the resume and references submitted and what is online. For example, it might set off a red flag if a candidate has listed a reference that either doesn’t exist or is not listed under the company they have it listed for. Candidates should always do their homework ahead of time before handing in references. If one of their references has moved to another company, they should have that listed. While it does take a little more effort, cross referencing is a valuable effort and well-worth your time.

Utilizing social media too much

Resumes are considered legal documents by courts of law—LinkedIn profiles are not. Why is this being pointed out? Because LinkedIn has become a popular and widely used tool by hiring professionals. Some candidates are even starting to do away with formal CV’s and use LinkedIn profiles and digital portfolios as if they were official employment records—and employers are letting them. If down the road a termination or discharge needs to take place, you will have no legal recourse if all you have is a LinkedIn profile. Take the time and require official paper references that can be documented.

Calling a reference not listed

While it is technically not against the law to call a reference the candidate hasn’t listed, it is frowned upon and with good reason. First, you don’t want to put a candidate’s current job in jeopardy because you called a current employer who didn’t know they were interviewing at other places. Especially if you haven’t yet decided to make an official offer. Not only does it look inconsiderate but if this is a top candidate you want working for you, you may have just lost their acceptance from this mistake. The second reason it is not a good idea to call a reference not listed has to do with history. Just because a candidate doesn’t list someone from a previous job doesn’t mean they are hiding anything. It could simply be that they didn’t get along well with that boss or colleague. Maybe they just didn’t fit into that work culture and felt it best to not list those individuals. If you feel you have to explore more references than were given to you, first ask the candidate if it’s ok and then ask them for more names of acceptable individuals to call. You can also make the official job offer and then ask if you can call their current employer—if they accept the position.

WorkSource, a WRC-certified premier staffing agency, is committed to quality and service. Our resident staffing experts will vet candidates’ references for you, and have expert knowledge on navigating reference checks. Contact our team of skilled recruiters today to learn more.

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