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Why checking references has never been more important

Marc BelaicheBy Marc Belaiche

This article covers why reference checking has become a vital step in the hiring process for all organizations.

Tougher Job Market
Given the economic downturn of recent years, some job seekers may be more likely to take liberties with their education, employment or experience noted on their resumes to enhance their appeal as a candidate to potential employers. In a recent survey, 53% of resumes and job applications contained falsifications (see false statistics). With the competition for jobs getting tougher, even more job seekers may bend the truth from embellishments to omissions to outright lies in hopes of landing a job.

Candidates Feel They Have Nothing to Lose
Some job seekers who have been out of work for an extended duration may think they have nothing to lose by changing facts, whether they are small or large. In their minds, the chance of securing a position may be a greater benefit than the risk of getting caught.

Getting Found Out is Difficult
Confirming every detail on a resume can be very time-consuming, with many employers uncertain what to do if an inconsistency is uncovered by checking a job seeker’s references. If an applicant really wants to hide the truth, they will find excuses to make it difficult for the untruth to be uncovered. Watch for red flags such as: “My previous employer will not provide references”, “That was a long time ago” or “I’d prefer that you didn’t speak with them”. Given the scope of your reference checking (i.e., probably not being “all exhaustive”), treat even a small red flag as significant.

In addition, for legal or other reasons employers are often reluctant to give negative information on a previous employee through a reference check.

Tight Timelines
With reduced staff, tight deadlines, and lack of experience in checking references, many companies are stretched and don’t have the time or experience to conduct proper reference checks. As a result, red flags are often overlooked to hurry up the hiring process. Job seekers who have misrepresented themselves might be aware of this and will use it to their advantage.

Many Organizations Don’t Provide References
In light of the potential risks of providing a bad reference on a former employee, many organizations have now adopted a policy of not providing references or reasons for employees leaving the position, regardless of whether the candidate’s performance was good or bad. Instead, they will only confirm that the person was employed by the organization, their title and the time period they were employed. This may leave a potential new employer in a difficult situation, possibly making them feel uncomfortable as to whether to hire a candidate.

Conclusion
If you sense that something isn’t right when checking references on a potential employee, err on the side of caution since the cost of making a hiring mistake can be significant. Dig as much as possible to find out everything you can about a candidate and possibly have a third party or experienced recruiter do the reference checking if you are unable or unqualified.

Marc Belaiche is a CPA, CA and is President of TorontoJobs.ca, an Internet recruitment business and recruiting firm located in the Greater Toronto Area. Visit www.TorontoJobs.ca.

Hiring, Human Resources
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