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When seeking your best candidate for a position, taking a look at their employment history might well be your first step. Making it your only, or even primary concern to assure the candidate is a good match overlooks an issue more critical to consider. Essentially, your first step, employment history, will be simply a verification of a candidate’s past employment. You’ll likely find that what’s more vital is learning more about a prospective employee through feedback from their former managers and co-workers.

It’s a kind of quantity versus quality issue – of course employment verification and reference checks are best used together to verify a candidate’s work history and performance. However, it’s really the information obtained while conducting a reference check that will be especially useful to provide a fuller picture of the quality of a candidate’s behavioral competencies  – or, in more common terms, what most refer to as “soft skills.”

The reference check…

Here is where your applicant and/or candidate provides professional and/or personal references that include coworkers, direct managers or other employees with whom they worked closely – even direct reports. Who better to provide richer details about their work history, job responsibilities and performance?

Maximizing the outcome of your reference check requires strategic and well-framed questions, since limited time or cautious responses from references called by phone means that recruiters and hiring managers are often allowed knowledge only about the most basic concerns or left trying to interpret pauses, non-responses or non-callbacks.

All this when your questions will likely seek to capture information about the candidate’s productivity, reliability, strengths and weaknesses, communication and listening skills, and workplace suitability.

Bottom line, reference checking by phone can be frustrating. They may be time consuming to conduct and often happen only when a company has identified a final candidate or even already made a pending offer. Avoiding the likelihood of a poorly informed decision is boosted by online reference checking automatically, and earlier in the process, offering valuable insights into candidates from the start. Most important, online reference checks deliver reliable and valid data on past performance that employment verification fails to provide.

How a reference check is done…

Are you suffering through the extended phone interview and search for references and verifying data? We know this is a chore. But it can be a horror of the past. Using the consistent data obtained through SkillSurvey Reference®, applicants submit reference contact information online, and requests are sent directly to their contacts. These efforts generally get responses from significantly more references, and provide quality feedback from candid feedback and data that measurably improve hiring decisions.

While it’s a timesaver, the online process produces contacts who provide online candidate feedback more frequently and fully, offering more immediate and honest input, and adding insights about candidates To see how it measures up, check out this infographic comparing reference checks to background checks.

Maximizing Reference Checks…

Consider the ways reference checks will help you make strategic hiring decisions:

Some of the best reference check questions challenge the assumptions you first made about your candidate’s unsuitable culture fit during interviews, or sound warning bells about a candidate’s interpersonal and communication habits. Employing more varied reference questions might uncover weaknesses that were not apparent in the personal interview exchange. Conversely, they may help you uncover valuable positive insights on candidates who are star performers on the job but fail miserably in an interview.

For instance, getting feedback ratings on questions like this one can collect a wealth of information:

How consistently did the candidate communicate or collaborate their teammates?

The response will offer information about whether the candidate’s work habits find them working well with team members or who preferred working independently. This information may prove vital in making a wise hiring decision.

References — Check and Repeat…

Undertake your best reference check immediately after the first or second round of in-person interviews. Shorten your time investment — gathering the right reference data can help confirm whether your prospect will likely be a good choice; whether continuing your interviews is worth using valuable significant decision makers time.

Well structured reference feedback can reveal valuable information to significantly guide the hiring process. A digital reference process may uncover a candidate who made false claims is or performed poorly in a similar role.

If this information is divulged near the end of the candidate selection process, everyone’s time is jeopardized. Early discovery using digital reference checks, saves your company time and money by narrowing down the candidates and moving ahead only with those whose reviews are substantiated.

Consider making phone reference checking outdated. Going digital will save time and provide improved feedback. No frustrating telephone tag and overlooked fraudulent claims (this has been established to happen in only a small percent of applications, but the hazards posed by missing misrepresentation are considerable) discovered.

If you’ve already been won over, consider this free trial here.

Okay, now to employment verification…

Employment verification confirms a candidate’s work experience with a previous employer. These queries confirm job specific facts — job titles, start and end dates, and reasons for leaving/termination (where applicable).

Just like reference checks, telephone employment verifications can prove time consuming or offer incomplete or unverifiable results.

Employment verifications are done similarly to the methods used for reference checks. See this interactive comparison tool Recruiters or hiring managers must overcome many barriers when seeking information from previous employers through phone connections. As a result, and in an effort to save time, employment verifications are usually conducted toward the end of the recruiting process after narrowing the search of initial candidates.

Digital verification allows faster and, because of their ease to conduct, can happen earlier in the recruiting timeline. Recruiters are then able to uncover red flags about a candidate’s history early on, saving time and avoiding making poor hiring decisions. Companies are also able to collect detailed reports from former employers and store complete documentation in one central repository. This type of report tracking becomes nearly impossible when relying upon outdated phone verification methods.

So which is it — Reference check or employment verification?

Again, employment verifications are good, but serve only to validate established facts regarding an employee – that they served at a prior company, what their specific role/job title or history was, and that they worked for a specific period.

A richer portfolio and review of your applicant’s job performance and “soft skills” that would assure they’d be a good fit within your organization’s environment would be better served by a reference check process.

We’ll help you make ask references a well-researched set of questions to assure a bias-free foundation.

Undertaken properly, reference checks uncover a complete history of how candidates performed in similar roles, even as you recruit in higher numbers. Digital reference checks bring precise calibration to collecting reference feedback, giving you an advantage over companies that still use untimely and inconsistent telephone reference responses. Try it out for yourself.

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