How to get employer referencing right

How to get employer referencing right

When we ask employers about their recruitment processes, referencing is time and time again stated as the most significant pain point. It’s the slowest part of an already slow process (the UK is one of the slowest to hire developed countries globally), and often do not return the required information.

We ran a survey of over 100,000 employment references, and it indicated significant issues within the referencing process, including:

  • Volume – of the 100,000 references requested, only 61% were returned.
  • Veracity – of those returned, 31% were found to have discrepancies against information provided by the candidate.
  • Value – 81% of those received contained only the dates of employment.
  • Verification – 65% of referee information provided by the candidate was not the correct details.

How can employers avoid these issues and ensure their referencing process is fast, effective, and secure?

In this blog, we’ll look at identifying the appropriate level of referencing for the position, the various risks associated with failing to reference properly, and the best practice methods for ensuring vulnerable people are safeguarded and your business is protected from poor hires.

Levels of referencing

Depending on the type of position you are hiring for, different levels of referencing are needed to ensure new employees are well suited to the role.

For instance, the majority of positions will require a basic level of referencing, which includes a confirmation of previous employment dates, as well as salary and job title.

However, for positions that require a particular focus on safeguarding, such as roles working with children or vulnerable adults, more detailed references are required, which may include a more detailed description of the role the candidate performed, as well as notes on attitude, capability, and any issues that need to be flagged.

A mixture of both basic and enhanced referencing may be required, depending on the sensitivity of the position.

Referencing considerations

Deciding what level of referencing your candidates require means taking into account several factors and risks.

  • Safeguarding

Most important is the safety of any children or vulnerable adults whom your new employee will come into contact with. Therefore, an enhanced character reference is vital in order to gather information about conduct, attitude, and any potential safeguarding issues.

  • Risk of fraud

A consideration for all types of employers is the risk of fraud. Thoroughly checking references, including checking to see if previous employments are genuine businesses, can help mitigate the risk of employing a dishonest candidate.

  • Time to hire

Referencing is notoriously time-consuming, and a long hiring process can be detrimental in several ways, from increased recruitment costs to heavier workloads for existing staff, from a poor candidate experience to missing out on quality hires as other offers are accepted more quickly. It’s important therefore to be both thorough and efficient in your referencing processes.

Getting employment referencing right

While there is no single right way to conduct referencing, there are industry best practice guidelines to follow to ensure the safety, efficiency, and security of your business.

A safeguarding mindset

While references are not the only tool for evaluating a candidate’s suitability from a safeguarding standpoint, they can provide clues and important information on conduct and safeguarding issues in previous roles.

However, employers must use clean references as indications only, not as guarantees that the candidate in question will never pose a threat to vulnerable people. Therefore adopting a safeguarding mindset is recommended.

Included in the Better Hiring Institute’s Toolkit for the education sector is the idea of employers adopting a “safeguarding mindset”, which is defined as the difference between compliance and curiosity.

An employer who has a compliance-only approach to safeguarding is mostly concerned with meeting the minimum requirements, which can lead to red flags and warning signs being overlooked.

Conversely, an employer who adopts a curiosity-based approach to safeguarding is interested in finding out the truth, investigating anything that could point to a need for further action, and consistently monitoring employees over time to ensure that the risk of harm or criminal activity is minimised.

This means that not only can you as an employer be better informed of potential risks, but you can also more easily pass on crucial information to future employers.

Fraud reduction

The use of fake references is on the rise, with bogus companies being set up to generate fake references at scale for people who are trying to mask the absence of a work history or potentially mask other activities where they weren’t at work. At Reed Screening, our specialists have found 15 of these companies working at scale, with large numbers of work seekers using the same companies to provide their references.

The BHI offer a free document with advice on how to spot and report fake references, which includes advice on how to verify the legitimacy of a reference and a company.

Speeding up the process

As part of long-term plans to make UK hiring faster, to speed up economic growth and improve recruitment for both employers and candidates, work is being done to improve the referencing process. This includes the development of digital referencing tools that automate the process.

Designed to modernise and streamline the referencing process, digital instant referencing automates the process, considerably speeding up return times and saving recruitment teams time and resources.

How can Reed Screening help?

Ensuring your candidates experience a positive recruitment and onboarding process while maintaining the integrity and compliance of your screening procedures means building a robust process.

At Reed Screening, we have years of experience in providing fast, smooth, and thorough employee screening and background checks, to bolster your candidate experience. Our Instant Referencing service provides a hassle-free solution to deliver mass reference checks. After providing us with the candidate details, you can sit back and let our automation kick in. Our software will work with your candidate to contact, chase, and obtain the reference.

For more information, get in touch with our team.