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A global approach to reference checking

The Goal

Managing talent acquisition for big global brands like Jack Daniels, Finlandia, and Southern Comfort is no small task. The recruiters at Brown-Forman have been using SkillSurvey Reference and the Pre-Hire 360 reference check process to streamline reference assessments and improve their hiring process since 2009. And they’re big fans of the solution.

But being a global organization, they wanted to apply a standardized approach to hiring across all regions where it makes sense.

The Challenge

Leading a global talent acquisition team can be tricky. On the one hand, you’re managing the sheer scale of a global operation, so you naturally value consistency.

But on the other hand, you also have to manage national regulations that don’t exactly lend themselves to consistent workflows.

For the recruiters at Brown-Forman, this meant using SkillSurvey Reference’s Pre-Hire 360 reference check after making the offer to candidates because of labor laws in countries like the UK.

The bad news was that this meant they’d have to lose a lot of the crucial candidate insights the recruiters wanted to give to their hiring managers.

“What we realized was, if we ask the candidate to supply their references earlier and they agree, we can do reference checks before the interview stage. It’s great because it means we don’t have to compromise on our best practices just because we’re thinking global.”

Arelis Correa

Global Talent Acquisition Director, Brown-Forman

How We Helped

Once we launched our multilingual support for SkillSurvey Reference, it opened up a lot of important avenues for the talent acquisition team at Brown-Forman.

For one thing, it allows their candidates in the global regions where they conduct reference checking to respond in their native language. But it also allows references to respond in their native language – a huge bonus for a global operation.

“We were just hiring a candidate originally from Colombia for a position in the US. Now, even though the candidate speaks English, none of their references do. So it’s really important that we could get the references’ input in their native language.”
Arelis Correa

Global Talent Acquisition Director, Brown-Forman

In Action

How Brown-Forman uses the Pre-Hire 360 reference process to help new joiners

Aside from using the Pre-Hire 360 reference process to streamline their reference checking and inform their interview processes, the recruiters at Brown-Forman also use their reference information to help the people they end up hiring.

When they really like a candidate and plan to bring them on board but their references indicate they may need assistance in some specific way (say, they need help working with clients), the team at Brown-Forman can use that to craft a development plan for the new employee.

That means as soon as the new employee walks in the door, they know what they can do to help the newest member of the team be more successful.

Arelis recalled, “One person’s references indicated they were a workhorse – to the point where it might actually be unbalanced. So I spoke to them when they joined and said, ‘Look, we work hard, we play hard, but we really want you to have a work-life balance.’ And then I told them they’d hear this from everyone else at the company. So if someone ever told them to take a step back for a little while, it wasn’t a bad thing.”

The Results


On average, references took less
than 2 days (1.74 days) to respond


The average candidate had
five references feeding back


More than half of the references opted-in
to Brown-Forman’s passive talent community

About Brown-Forman

Brown-Forman Corp. is a world leader in the production and marketing of consumer beverage alcohol brands. They sell their more than 25 wine and spirit brands in more than 135 countries.

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