Those keeping up with ATC Hub content may have seen my last post about the risks of poor recruitment practices, citing research we commissioned in late 2016 showing that a majority of candidates were willing to lie or exaggerate to secure a role. If you haven’t already read it, I’d recommend you take a look as it sets the scene nicely for this latest piece of analysis.
The results of our 2016 Xref Recruitment Risk Index provided insight into the behaviour of Australian candidates during the recruitment process, and specifically looked at their views and attitudes towards the reference checking phase. It was an eye-opener to say the least.
This research made us think, “if this is how jobseekers are approaching reference checking, how is it perceived and being conducted by the industry, and how are the results of references being used?”
So, we surveyed the professionals actually doing the work – the HR managers and recruiters – many of whom still spend hours sourcing, chasing and recording reference checks. The resulting report, the Xref Recruitment Risk Index: Industry Perspective, brings a new level of insight to the magnitude of the referencing problem.
“Reference checking’s just a tick in the box”
We launched Xref in a bid to overcome the frustrations surrounding traditional reference checking approaches, but, following the last piece of research, we recognised an opportunity to find out more about the industry’s perception and use of this critical hiring tool. Do HR managers and recruiters at least recognise why it is essential to do reference checking well?
In many cases, the answer is no.
The research found that 39 per cent of those surveyed think of reference checking as a formality that serves little purpose, and 32 per cent see it as a drain on time and resources.
Considering what we know about jobseekers’ propensity to lie, this ‘box ticking’ approach is putting organisations at risk. There is no doubt that a cursory approach to checking references will lead some organisations to hire people who are unsuitable at best and a threat to the business and its customers at worst.
How did we come to this? There are many reasons, but one key factor driving this lack of emphasis on best practice in hiring is the increasingly competitive fight for talent. Anything that prolongs the hiring period adds to the likelihood of losing the best people. Much like the 2016 research, this survey found that 41 per cent of respondents have lost talent, specifically due to delays in referencing.
“I don’t have time to waste on collecting and giving references”
While lost talent is a major reason for rushing the process, another is simply resentment of the time it takes to set up and conduct phone-based references, which require HR managers and recruiters to forgo other, more strategically valuable tasks.
Our research asked respondents to select the elements of the hiring process they find most frustrating and, unsurprisingly, 35 per cent called out the time it takes to get to a hiring decision. There’s no doubt that a significant contributor to this is the traditional reference checking approach, which 17 per cent of respondents also cited as a specific recruitment frustration.
And the fact is, the pain of the process doesn’t end at having to collect references. Our survey respondents are also the recipients of regular reference requests from past and current employees. Thirty per cent told us they feel this is inconvenient and 20 per cent said they see it as a burden on their organisation.
A significant contributor to this frustration is the fact that HR professionals are still relying on phone-calls to take references. More than three quarters (77 per cent) of our respondents told us they had received an unplanned phone call to provide a reference, while a tiny seven per cent selected this as their preferred method for providing feedback.
It’s a vicious circle that’s driving hypocrisy across the industry. Our professionals seek to do the right thing by continuing to background check candidates, but in doing poorly, frustrate those they are asking to take the time to provide feedback. And, when the shoe’s on the other foot, they also wish to avoid the disturbances it causes.
“It’s too risky to agree to be a referee, I don’t know what I’ll be asked”
Our respondents were frustrated when acting as referees – we found that more than half (56 per cent) of our respondents admitted that they actually avoid providing references for past and current employees altogether.
The lack of standardisation in how references are collected means that, beyond the time it takes, 73 per cent of those surveyed said they feel there are risks associated with providing references, with the number one perceived risk being the employee’s privacy (54 per cent).
And it doesn’t stop there. The conversational nature of the traditional approach means that many also feel uncomfortable about the questions they may be expected to answer. The threat of being asked illegal questions was cited by 37 per cent of respondents as another risk associated with providing references, and 13 per cent told us they have been pressured into saying more than they felt comfortable with during a reference checking process.
With these threats in mind, an avoidance of the task is understandable. But where does this leave the future of the Australian talent pool, if we’re not doing the right thing by our industry and ensuring that candidates are hired for the correct roles that will see them contribute positively to their industry and the economy as a whole?
We now have a complete picture of reference checking and its flaws, and formed an unchallengeable argument for improved efficiency in recruiting to avoid candidate fraud, hiring based on inaccurate data and ultimately, money wasted on critical stages of the hiring period.
Hear more about these two research reports when I discuss them alongside a panel of HR experts at the upcoming Australasian Talent Conference 2017.
This article is sponsored by Xref
Less than TWO weeks to go! Wrack your brains over the biggest questions and tackle the biggest challenges in talent acquisition, only at The Australasian Talent Conference. Tickets available here.
Leave a Reply