Are You Checking References Ethically?
I’m pretty sure most hiring managers use reference checks as a part of the recruitment process. I’m not so sure that all of them have heard of, or thought about the term ’good recruitment practice’ (god rekryteringssed in Swedish). In short, it’s a standard that ensures good ethics and methods when recruiting.
I’ve found that it’s often common practice to check references that the candidate has not left, just because many believe that the references he/she left are most likely going to give only positive feedback about the person, so they aren’t 100% valid, and thus not very useful.
Well, I agree with this. It’s no secret that people leave references they know will talk well about them. But think about it. Is it really ethically correct to go and ask former (or worse: present) co-workers and managers of the candidate, without asking him/her beforehand? Maybe he/she is not officially looking for a new job. Maybe by doing this, the word will get out that he/she applied for a job at your company, which might jeopardize his/her current position in worst case scenario. You also have to take into account that the reference given always depends on who is giving it. A former manager might not have liked him/her, but does that automatically mean that you wont?
So what to do? First of all, the reference check should only be one part of the entire recruitment process, and not weigh more than the other parts. You need to look at the CV, the skills, the social media activity, the results of at least two interviews with various relevant people at your company, and maybe also include a personality test, especially for more senior roles. Before checking references you should have a pretty good idea about the person, and the references should then be used to verify that idea. And if it doesn’t – say you gain some totally unexpected knowledge about the candidate – well then that’s good, this means you need to step back and think again.
I also suggest that if you happen to know former colleagues of a candidate that you would like to consult regarding him/her – just ask. ’I know Peter who you used to work with, is it alright if I ask him a little about you?’.
As an employer you are most of the times in a power position during the recruitment process, so don’t forget to mind the candidates’ integrity. In the end by doing this, it will surely be a win-win situation.
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