In the Recruitment world pre-employment screening and reference checks are part of the job – but how successful are they?

Having myself been stung twice in the two months leading up to Christmas with fantastic verbal references being supplied by the candidate and then completed by myself – only to find out on an “off the record verbal referencereference” that all is not what it seems. This came about by our clients hearing something on the grapevine that all was not well in this camp which prompted us to delve deeper and deeper. So how accurate are they?

Pre-employment screening or Reference Checks are a process of examination and evaluation, commonly used to verify the accuracy of an applicant’s claims as well as to discover any possible criminal/medical history, or employer sanctions. They generally require us to perform a background check on the candidate before offering him or her employment and can come in many forms ranging from medical, criminal through to education and employment.

The first are very “black and white” and are required by the majority of large organisations in Australia today. The other two are open to interpretation. How many recruitment consultants can truly say that they check on their candidate’s tertiary qualifications background? This is a big factor when it is a must for the job but we often just take the candidates word for this.

Don’t get me wrong I personally believe that reference checks are a part of our job but I do think that they need to be a lot more thorough. Doing research on the internet on this subject I came across a statistic that was quite alarming.

“In the UK some 39% of UK organisations have experienced a situation where their reference checking procedures have allowed an employee to be hired who was later found to have lied or misrepresented themselves in their application. And since the onset of the financial crisis of 2009 / 2010, the level of fraud has almost doubled and some experts have predicted that it will escalate further”

It would be very interesting for Recruitment companies to look at their own statistic on this and can we say that we are thorough enough so not to fall into the above statistic?

Another big issue with references are companies who will not give a verbal reference although expect to receive a full one on candidates they are employing. This has become a trend with large organsiations around Australia, and makes it very difficult to get a formal verbal reference which covers all aspects of the candidates roles. Do we agree or disagree with this?

On the positive side I do think Recruitment companies need to point out to candidates that a good reference can be an exceptional selling tool for them. So often we hear from candidates that we can only do the reference once they have got to a point in the interview process. If we (consultants) were allowed to show potential clients a glowing reference this could definitely tip the scales in the candidates favor and actually push them to the lead.

In closing I truly believe that Reference Checking is not an administrative task but should be an integral part of the process which should be highly valued by all parties, Consultant, Client and Candidate.

Alicia Sumich – Group Manager; Business Development

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