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Most references are...

​“Your offer is being made subject to satisfactory references.”

Theoretically this phrase should strike fear into all but the most self-assured of candidates. It is the last hurdle, and the one chance for the potential employer to dig into your past and find out some information that hasn’t originated from your imaginative “sales pitch.”

It should be seen as a formidable step to be overcome, but is actually seen by many as a formality.

Many employers view it is a quick rubber stamping process as many HR departments don’t tend to give much more than the dates of work and position title as a matter of course. If they want to get to the juicier details, they have to dig much deeper, and most recruiters and candidates would prefer to avoid this extra complication.

Candidates don’t take the referencing process overly seriously either. Many of them will line up a few sympathetic ex-colleagues, and some will even prepare them with slightly falsified testimonies to match their “story.” It is so easy to do, and for every high profile scandal (such as the recent Myer’s case), you can be sure that there are tens of thousands of lower level scams going on.

This is making a mockery of the entire recruitment process. Without the ultimate accountability of a reference, there is no sword of Damocles hanging over a candidate, and they might feel emboldened to embellish the truth at every turn.

Many feel confident to push the realms of credibility on LinkedIn. When challenged about the inaccuracies in a candidate’s employment dates (they were out by years, not months), the candidate replied that they didn’t spend so much time checking them, a seemingly simple mistake to make. You can be sure that it was no mistake. 95% of LinkedIn profiles will have at least one inaccuracy. Many will have multiple.

The wool is being pulled over the eyes of hiring managers across the world, and, short of hiring Sherlock Holmes, there is nothing that they can do about it.

Nothing apart from ensuring that they take proper and detailed references.

Candidates that don’t want to provide a reference should be viewed with the highest suspicion. “I can’t give one because I don’t want my employer to know that I am leaving.” If I had a dollar for the amount of times I have heard that one…. Make sure that the reference is coming from their line manager or someone in a senior position – it is common for people to ask their mates to oblige. That sort of defeats the object.

Also, where a written reference is requested, best to request it be sent directly from the referee’s email account or alternatively printed on company letterhead. There are so many opportunities to doctor a reference, that utmost care should be taken.

 It is important to stress to candidates that this rigorous process is carried out with every candidate. They should not feel that there is a lack of trust, and the best candidates will value your thorough approach.

Top talent will not find it hard to provide proof of their worth.