Today’s online reference checking tools are adding more value to the hiring process than ever before.
By Debbie Bolla
One of the true values of HR technology is when a solution can transform a once tedious practice into an efficient, automated one that actually benefits the hiring process. Online reference checking solutions have been lauded for doing just that—no more phone tag or unanswered emails for hiring managers. They provide a simple way to gain the information organizations need about potential candidates. And since the technology has been on the market for a few years, it’s hitting a maturity level where it’s adding even more strategic levels of value to HR.
“Today’s online reference checking helps drive business results,” says Greg Moran, CEO of employee assessment and screening technology provider Chequed. “Automating the reference checking process alone is helpful by saving time. But that is a small part of its ROI [return on investment]. The real ROI is around quality of hire.”
So how are online reference checks delivering improved quality of hires? One way, says Moran, is by allowing users to customize reference questions to specific competencies and abilities. “Questions before were very generic, but now they are custom to each job role,” he says. “They are really focused on core attributes. They can ask the reference to evaluate specific situations, like how a candidate uses communication skills. It can go to a very granular, job-specific level.”
Questions can also speak to an increasingly popular consideration when hiring—cultural fit. “Assessments can show the critical attributes required to succeed in role,” says Moran. And these assessments are based on behavioral science. This way, says Moran, there is no right or wrong answer—just candid feedback that hiring managers can actually use to make their decisions on a more granular level. “The more you can understand a candidate’s unique role and fit in your organization becomes critical information to hiring and developing this person.”
SkillSurvey President and CEO Ray Bixler says that some organizations are leveraging reference checking earlier in the hiring process. They are then using that feedback to develop interview questions that can gain further insight into both a candidate’s qualities and weaknesses. For example, a reference may inform a specific skill that a candidate needs improvement on, and the way they react to being questioned about it is very telling for hiring managers, says Bixler. “This leads to healthy conversations. Quality of hiring decisions are elevated when using this technology.”
Information from the reference check report can also improve time to productivity. After candidates are hired, Bixler says that hiring managers can continue to review information gleaned from the report to make informed decisions. They can ensure new hires have tasks that play to their strengths, and more importantly, get early training in areas that need improvement.
Like other HR tech applications, online reference checking solutions are now mobile enabled—and well accepted. Moran reports that Chequed has a 20 to 30 percent completion rate on mobile devices—up from 8 percent last year. “If this growth rate continues, it will be 100 percent in two years,” he says. Bixler reports a 30 to 50 percent completion rate on mobile devices. This type of task and technology is certainly well suited to the anytime, anywhere access that mobile devices provide.
What’s next? Both Moran and Bixler agree that reference checking technology will continue to focus on the candidate experience. With competitive labor conditions, candidates are looking for a seamless process with access to reports and completion rates in real-time.
Bixler also says that the technology will continue to gather critical data on candidates—and the use and analyzing of that data is key. “The data we collect can help identify top performers and make sure companies have the best information about the individual and their roles.”
Case Study: Gate Gourmet
Gate Gourmet is an independent provider of airline catering services with 13,000 North American employees. High recruitment volumes were causing reference checking headaches. “We have a very high volume of recruiting with at least 125-130 open requisitions on a regular basis across North America,” says Lisa Johnson, former director of recruiting, North America for Gate Gourmet. “And, with six recruiters and no IT assistance, reference checking was becoming a cumbersome challenge. We needed help.”
Here is what the organization achieved working with Chequed’s platform:
- Recruiters saved between five and six hours per week
- Reference completion rate: 85 percent
- 24 reference opt-in to talent pipeline
- Online reference checks added critical data for better hiring decisions
Case Study: HealthSouth
HealthSouth already has more than 24,000 employees in over 100 hospitals in the US and Puerto Rico, and they’re in a growth mode. Finding strong performers who will stay longer leads to patients continuously receiving a high quality of care. “We do the reference check right after the phone screen and before the in-person interviews. The process flows through our ATS really well, and the reports are instantly available for hiring managers,”says William Poynter, director of talent acquisition for HealthSouth.
Here is what the organization achieved working with SkillSurvey’s platform:
- HealthSouth recruiters reduced their time spent on reference checking by 92 percent.
- Turnover: reduced by as much as 17.1 percent over two years.
- Voluntary termination: decreased by 9.7 percent.
- Response rate: an average of four or more references respond
- Employees who received high performance appraisals from their managers were the same individuals who received high ratings from references on their Pre-Hire 360 survey.