News & Views
Is the reference dead?

Many recruiters and hiring managers are wondering if the effort to get references is worth it anymore. It can be a real slog (we know because many of our clients tell us so). The endless reminders to referees. The radio silence. More reminders. And then, if it does show up, a reference that’s so info-lite it wasn’t worth the wait. 

Now that it’s easier for employees to make a Subject Access Request (SAR) to view the data a company holds on them employers are loathe to give much away. Confirmation of an employee’s name, job role, dates they were with the company and the number of sick days is about all they’ll commit to. Competence, behaviour, performance? Nope – employers’ lips are often sealed for fear of being sued by an employee. No wonder some recruiters and hiring managers can’t be arsed chasing references. 

For those who are, the process needs to be as quick and painless as possible. Some of our clients tell us they spend half their lives* chasing references, which is why they’re using an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to take over some of the leg work for them. 

It’s not uncommon now for recruiters and hiring managers to request a reference before the first interview. Certainly some of our clients ask for a reference at application stage and check the candidate is happy for them to contact the referee before offer stage if their application progresses. Nobody wants to hang about at the end of the recruitment process if a delay in getting a reference could lose them their chosen candidate (especially not in today’s candidate-led market).

Mandatory references and ATS

Of course not all organisations can adopt a take-it-or-leave-it attitude to references. For regulated industries like financial services and the health and social care sector reference checking is a vital part of pre-employment screening.

The care sector has its own particular challenges with references and the need to gather employee conduct information, a process that is currently under review by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)

The industry has also highlighted how a lack of user-friendly processes to can be a block for care employers.

The good news is that an ATS can do a lot to help. We’ve built mega-functionality into our systems to make requesting and collecting references as easy as possible – not just for our care clients but for anyone else who’s still chasing those darned things. Automated chasers can go out to candidates as well as referees and there are nifty functions that allow visibility at all stages of the reference journey. We can also use an Application Programming Interface (API) to link with services like uCheck.

So back to the question: is the reference dead? No, not quite. To completely misquote Mark Twain – reports of the reference’s death are greatly exaggerated.

* not an actual, factual statistic