Obtaining background checks and references is an essential, daily part of any recruiter's job description. Time consuming and sometimes frustrating to continually chase referees, we have to accept this as imperative. However I contemplate…are references always a reliable source for employers?
I guess we have to accept that references can be influenced by various factors, such as the mood of the referee on any particular day (we've all been there!). Also, the referee's inability to articulate how the person fitted in with the team, or detail accurate accounts of relationships with managers/colleagues.
We're finding that more and more organisations are choosing to provide confirmation of employment dates only, which can be frustrating for recruiters and prospective employers when trying to fully assess candidates (and offer some form of reassurance). I personally prefer to take verbal references where possible, allowing me to get a good understanding of the candidate's skillset and the role they undertook.
Recruiting into the National Health Service, we are part of two major frameworks - Government Procurement Service (Buying Solutions) and Health Trust Europe. Both frameworks have strict audit processes that Sellick Partnership adheres to rigidly. Part of this process is obtaining written references - ten year references in some instances! Any employer within the NHS can feel assured in the fact that Sellick Partnership are audited regularly and fully comply with all the regulations (and believe me, there is a lot of work that goes into our audit files for all candidates).
Asking myself if references are a reliable source of information for employers, I have to say that I'm in two minds. Yes, I feel they are a great guideline and base to verify a candidate and their skillset. But this needs to be coupled with a thorough understanding of the candidate and their skills, and backed up by face-to-face interviews to really assess someone, rather than solely taking references as fact. As a recruiter, references are a great tool. But that's all they are…a tool in the recruiter's toolbox.
Is a basic reference, often just detailing employment dates, really more useful to an employer than a face-to-face assessment of a candidate? Is the employment law too strict, and are employers losing out on good candidates because of a few months that are unverified? If you have an opinion on this I'd be delighted to hear from you, so please leave a comment below or contact me via LinkedIn.