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We all know reference checking can be time consuming, and without a good process in place, you can’t count on good results. Recruiters, who typically spend hours trying to get in touch with references, will tell you that response rates are a big problem. Why? Because many references (and their employers) believe there’s a legal risk involved.

Reference checking is one of the key ways to determine if your next hire is going to stick, but it doesn’t work if you can’t get references to respond. What can you do to improve your process and alleviate fears of getting into hot water? Let’s look at some common concerns to find out if the risks are real.

True or False? It’s a legal risk to provide a reference check.

False: According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, reference checking can actually reduce the risks of negligent hiring.

True or False? If a former employer provides factual information and the person isn’t hired, the employer can be sued for defamation or discrimination.

False: This is a serious concern and often causes low response rates among references. But the key word here is factual. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, “it is legal for [employers] to provide factual information about a former employee to a potential employer.”

True or False? A reference’s perception of risk makes them less likely to respond.

True: Former managers and colleagues know first-hand what’s it like to work with the candidate you’re considering. But if they aren’t willing to share that insight with you, you’re wasting your time. You need several references vouching for each candidate so you can be confident that you’re getting the very best candidate for the job.

How do you help references open up? Offer anonymity so they don’t feel like they’re “on the hook” for honest answers. With online reference checking, each reference rates the candidate on job competencies and performance, and these responses are combined into one score. That way, individual answers can’t be traced back to the reference, but you still get valuable insight into the candidate’s potential for success.

Plus, with online reference checking, references are more likely to respond because they can complete the survey online in their own time. In fact, online reference checking delivers a response rate of more than 90%.

Ready to get started?

Reference checking, like any other part of the hiring process, can have risks, but it’s important to get a clear and complete picture of your candidates before making a potentially costly hiring decision. When you use technology, like online reference checking, you not only minimize your legal risk, but you get a more efficient, more reliable process for evaluating candidates. Sign up for a free reference checking demo, or start your free trial today.

To learn more, check out The Recruiter’s Talent Acquisition & Reference Checking Handbook.