Do you background check candidates? Whether it be a reference check or a social media checkare they worth the time and effort? Reference checks used to be the norm, but companies are increasingly deciding to drop this time consuming procedure. Why? Are they not useful or are we simply getting lazier?

In 2010, a SHRM survey of 433 companies found that 76% would conduct reference checks. These days, however, it is often quicker and faster to do a Facebook and social media check on applicants, rather than call their references.

What’s the point of reference checking, anyway?

The main reason for reference checking is to confirm the applicant’s past job responsibilities and experience, as well as a look into their strengths and weaknesses. Not only used to make sure a candidate hasn’t lied on their CV or in their interview, if done correctly, reference checking can check for cultural fit.

How much do reference checks affect the final outcome of a hire?

In an OfficeTeam survey of more than 1000 senior managers, it was found that on average, 21% candidates are removed after reference checks.

Some things to consider…

  • companies are scared of legal action so may be reluctant to talk to you
  • the referee normally relies on their memory of their candidate, rather than solid
  • documentation of their work and behaviour- so assessment may not be so accurate
  • referees may be biased
  • competitors may not be willing to cooperate

What should you ask?

  • confirm the dates of employment as well as the title, role and responsibilities
  • ask about strengths and weaknesses
  • remember not to ask anything illegal, such as age, martial status, sexuality etc
  • use open ended rather than yes-no questions
  • end the check by asking if they would hire the employee again and if there’s anything you should know about them

What about social media checks?

The results of a 2014 Jobvite survey of 1855 HR/recruiting professionals found:

  • 93% use or plan to use social media as part of their recruiting
  • 73% plan to invest more in social recruiting
  • 55% have reconsidered a candidate after viewing their social profile (61% are negative reconsiderations)

So it’s really quite common to use social media to vet your candidates, but remember:

  • if you discover something about a person’s political views, family issues, religion, make sure you don’t exercise bias or discrimination
  • notify candidates that your company practices public content searching
  • and make sure you stick to that – search only publicly available content

Don’t forget: you can improve your quality of hire by combining selection procedures, as well as making sure your interviews have a clear structure.