Become less reliant on reference checks, expert says

Start-ups need to allocate sufficient time and effort to conduct job interviews and reference checks, an expert says, after a survey revealed 4% of employees have used a fake referee.


According to Balance Recruitment, which conducted a survey of nearly 1000 workers in the IT and finance sectors, 39% of referees are personal friends, suggesting references are often biased.


In addition to the prevalence of overly-positive references, 4% of the workers surveyed admitted to providing a fake referee.


Balance Recruitment believes this is partly due to a rise in businesses promising to provide candidates with believable references, making it increasingly difficult to spot fakes.


Greg Pankhurst, Balance Recruitment co-founder and account director, says employers should place more emphasis on the job interview process and become less reliant on reference checks.


“Probably 60 to 90 minutes for the very first interview is a really good place to start. Always try and get them back in for a second interview,” he says.


“Sometimes, it can give the candidate an opportunity to digest what they’ve seen at the first interview.”


“Try to keep the space between interviews as short as possible – no more than two or three days, tops.”


Meanwhile, references checks should take no longer than five to 10 minutes, Pankhurst says.


“When you do the reference checks, ask for the referees that you want to speak to – don’t just use the referees the candidate offers up,” he says.


When speaking to a referee, Pankhurst says the prospective employer needs to control the conversation, not the other way around.


“Ask the questions you want answered, get some details and then cross-check that back on what the candidate has told you,” he says.


“You then need to get on LinkedIn… 60% of all professionals in Australia are on LinkedIn, so you should be able to find those details and validate who they are.”


Pankhurst says it can be easy for start-ups to get “swept up in the emotion and excitement” of new people coming on board.


“Try and quash that. Every hire you make is a critical hire, so you’re far better off waving off someone who could be good and waiting for the perfect person to come along,” he says.


“Sometimes, start-ups struggle to attract the calibre of people they would like to attract [which is why they settle].”


Pankhurst says while job candidates need to sell themselves to potential employers, it is equally important for employers to sell that particular position, particularly if it is in a start-up.


“They get to be part of something from the ground up [and] they get to work on a lot more things than in a large organisation. They’re the two best things you can pitch about a start-up,” he says.


“That notion that you’re getting job security in a big organisation is just not the case anymore, so if you can get people passionate and excited [about your start-up], you can win over some really high calibre candidates.”


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