How Important Are Reference Checks?

by Liz Carey

BBX50H7QEZAdapting to new hiring practices is a necessity for any business or recruitment partner to thrive in this competitive landscape. And one of the things constantly changing is
the role and importance of pre-employment reference checks in today’s workplace.

Reference checks allow a recruiter to get independent insight about a candidate’s previous on-the-job performance. It verifies the information provided by the candidate on their resume and during the interview. You can also use this information to sell your candidate to your client.

We hear conflicting opinions as to the value of reference checks in this day and age. For many, reference checking is just part of the process, and they don’t place much value on the information gleaned about candidates – thinking the references provided may be biased or even fake. But it is an incredibly vital part of any recruitment process, and should never slip through the cracks. Reference checks can reveal high-potential candidates who may not be the best at interviewing, and filter out the embellishers who appear amazing on paper.

Rather than depend on the opinions of a few references, some recruiters rely on gut instinct or a 2-minute phone call with the candidate, and while gut instinct can sometimes filter out half-truths and fakers, it shouldn’t be the basis for a hiring decision.

Similarly, a resume can only tell so much – It may look like your candidate is able to do the job, but has he actually done the job in the past? This is where references can provide a wealth of information. You don’t want your client learning the hard way about a candidate’s poor performance.

To get insight as to how your candidate actually performs on the job, it’s important to do reference checks. Make sure the references are really who your candidate says they are by looking them up on LinkedIn and calling them on the company’s land-line. Ask open-ended questions about their work processes, attitude, key strengths and areas of improvement, and whether they would have the candidate work with them again. Pay attention to what the reference doesn’t say about the candidate, as well.

The only thing a reference check costs is a little time and effort, and it can save you from huge ramifications further down the line, so there’s no reason to let the process fall through the cracks.

button to subscribe to NPA blog

Develop an International Recruiting Mindset

by Veronica Blatt

globe with business peopleI came across an article on titled Recruiting Internationally? Think Local, which resonated with me in many ways. One of the most compelling points was the idea that so many recruiters think differently about international recruiting as compared to local recruiting. It seems that many recruiters somehow think the recruiting PROCESS is different because the geography is different. While there are legitimate reasons why international recruiting may be more difficult than local recruiting, I don’t believe it’s because the process is wildly different.

It’s no secret that globalization is here to stay, and has created huge shifts in how/where employees are located. You may wonder how to get started in international recruiting if you are part of a small, independent recruiting firm (as opposed to a large multinational). The author of the article referenced above, Marie Larsen, points out that it is too easy to succumb to an overly broad approach:

“For instance, if we are to recruit a team in China, we often think, ‘OK, how do I find a candidate in China?’ When we recruit locally, we ask much better questions, for example, ‘I wonder if Professor Joe at Trinity College would recommend any of his most outstanding computer grads?’ The fundamental problem with international recruitment is that we approach the challenge broadly and abstractly.”

I completely agree with this assessment. Instead of tackling an international recruiting assignment with the same approach used for local job openings, it seems some recruiters shy away from their normal recruiting processes, perhaps thinking those processes won’t work for a global search. To maximize success, international recruiters must think locally. Here are some suggestions:

  • Develop a network. Make sure you are building relationships with people, not just a list of names. Ask for referrals of other candidates, but also ask for the names of local competitors and universities that could be sources of additional candidates.
  • Reach out to other international recruiting contacts in the market. Not only can they help you find candidates, they can be an invaluable source of information about the local culture and the ‘real’ job market. Try to learn where “birds of a feather flock together.” This could include local clubs, professional organizations, or online communities.
  • Broaden your social media efforts to country-specific sites. Obviously LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are hugely popular social media sites, but they aren’t the only ones. For example, have you checked out Orkut, which is quite popular in Brazil and India? There are other international social networks as well, so be sure you are considering a global audience with your social media messaging.
  • Ask for help if you need to overcome a language barrier. Don’t rely on online translation services, which are notoriously inaccurate. If your international recruiting efforts lead you to a candidate population that speaks a different language, your best bet may be to strike up a partnership with a local recruiter. Working on a split-fee basis can help you find the candidates you need in a timely fashion, while overcoming cultural and linguistic obstacles.

Have you experienced success with international recruiting? Share your experiences below!

7 Questions to Help Independent Recruiters Take Better Job Orders

by Dave Nerz

It is a tough market for independent recruiters, right? The work you do to fill an open position is 2 to 3 times more than what was necessary before the recession. Clients are slow to move and seem to change their minds about what they want, require and expect with each candidate that you expose them to.

So, are you taking good job orders?

  • Is the client being asked to think their requirements through? Or are you doing mind reading?
  • Is there agreement about what the client asks for? Is it written down and confirmed in writing?

Maybe you have a recruitment process; feel free to share your recruiting process via comments to this blog. If you don’t have a formal process, it may be because you have an informal process that has been working…good for you. Does it ever fail you? Maybe you don’t want to “waste the client’s time” when you know what they mean and you have candidates ready to go or can tap into a recruiter networking group to support you with a quick turn on candidates. As a frequent hiring manager at one point in my career, I can tell you my requirements changed from hire to hire, even with repetitive fills. Sometime you just need different skill sets to work with your team chemistry. Maybe a special skill is required to work a special project or with a specific client. I would not assume anything, as the cost of making that assumption is a waste of your time and the time of your recruiter networking group. Independent recruiters who work on a contingency basis only get paid for the time invested that makes a match. Are you really interested in taking on additional risk?

What if you created a simple form that collected some basic information about the job and then asked 7 straightforward questions of the hiring manager?

Basics: Company, Location of the Job, Job Title, etc

Question 1:  Money

  • Base Salary Range…more for exceptional candidates?
  • Bonus…how realistic is a bonus? Based on what?
  • Commission or other compensation available?
  • Benefits…fit to the market…better/same/worse?

Question 2:  Process

  • Who is available to interview?  Three reserved dates  _________, __________, __________.
  • What is the date you want this hire to start?

Question 3:  Required Skills and Background

Must haves:

  • bullet 
  • bullet 
  • bullet 

Question 4:  Not required but would make a candidate a standout. Dig deep here…get 3 good things!

  • bullet 
  • bullet   
  • bullet   

Question 5:  Why would the candidate choose to leave a good employer and take this position?

  • bullet 
  • bullet   
  • bullet   

These better be good…career path, company equity, flexible hours, high quality co-workers, etc.

Question 6:  The key duties of this job

  • bullet 
  • bullet   
  • bullet   


Question 7:  What will this candidate accomplish in the first 3 to 6 months if they are off to a great start?

  • bullet 
  • bullet   
  • bullet   

Sign it, and ask the hiring manager to sign it, too. Now I can sleep. I hope you will sleep better and make more placements. I know that doing this will separate you from the crowd of independent recruiters that don’t take the time to do this. It is a good investment and it brands you as a quality recruiter.