The Importance of Honest References

Reference checking a candidate’s experiences and credentials is regarded as a fundamental part of any job process. However the success of these checks depends entirely on the propensity of the referee to be honest in their assessment of the candidate and trust the recruiter or employer in keeping their responses confidential.

If you have ever been involved in an employment process where the appointed candidate doesn’t work out, it’s likely you’ll go back to the reference comments to check whether there were any signals from previous jobs. One of the more frustrating elements in circumstances where a candidate doesn’t live up to expectations is finding the referee comments simply don’t match the reality. The employment process is both costly and time consuming, so there’s little room to get it wrong. It’s a fair expectation that a referee provides honest and frank comments about a candidate as the employer will use this information as one of the foundations of an employment offer.

Here are some simple practices to keep in mind if you are asked to be a Referee:

  • If you are not comfortable being a referee, tactfully decline the opportunity.
  • If you accept an invitation to be a referee, set some guidelines. This might include requesting you are kept informed of job applications, how long you are prepared to act as a referee and whether the reference is personal or professional.
  • If the candidate reaches a stage where reference checks have been confirmed, ensure you understand the nature of role they have applied for. Ask them to call you to provide a brief on the job so you can provide an informed opinion as to their suitability, given the job tasks and requirements.
  • Provide an honest assessment of the candidate’s suitability. Ask questions about the role and the employer’s expectations.
  • Don’t be afraid to offer comments about the areas in which the candidate may benefit from additional training and/or development. A good recruitment process will identify these areas anyway and the employer is likely to be willing to take the candidate on regardless if the issues are only minor.

Most importantly, remember your comments as a Referee will be one of the primary factors used to select a candidate, and in the reverse situation you’d expect nothing but an honest, open response.

RM – Sportspeople Recruitment
First Published 2018

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