Relying on references in the recruiting process

HRM 04 Dec 2012

When it comes to checking references, a recent survey has revealed surprising insights into just how closely HR leaders rely on the personal referees provided by applicants.

Close to two thirds of respondents reported having contacted a referee who did not give positive feedback about the job applicant. In addition, a significant proportion of those polled (29%) said that they had caught a fake reference on an applicant’s CV.

These are some of the results of online polling conducted by Harris Interactive, on behalf of CareerBuilder, over August-September in the US. Around 2,500 hiring managers and HR practitioners participated in the survey.

Results revealed that hiring managers and HR practitioners do rely, to an extent, on references. Some 80% of employers said that they contact referee when evaluating potential employees and 16% of those respondents said that they would do so even before inviting the candidate to a job interview.

In terms of using information gathered from references, almost 70% of employers acknowledged having changed their minds about a candidate after having spoken with a referee. Perhaps surprisingly, almost half of those said that they came away with a less favourable opinion of the applicant while only 23% said that the referee gave them a more favourable opinion of the candidate than they had previously. This aligns with the finding that a significant majority of hiring managers have rung referees who did not have good things to say about a candidate whom they were supposed to be supporting.

On the other hand, a fairly large number of respondents said that they were unaffected by references. Thirty-one percent of hiring managers and employers said that they had never changed their minds about a candidate on the grounds of what a referee had to say.

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