Do You Avoid Reference Checking For Fear Of Bursting Your Balloon?


By Chris Gandy

The news that broke last week about retail giant Myer dismissing their new Group General Manager Strategy and Business Development, on his first day apparently due to a falsified CV has brought the process of referencing checking into the spotlight.

I know nothing more about the case than what has been reported widely in the media, however, it did get me thinking about this critical step in the recruitment process and how poorly most organisations tend to do it – if at all!

The main reason for this, in my view, is that we leave reference checking to the last minute. Consequently , it changes from verifying the candidate’s skills and experience they represented in their résumé and interview to validating our feelings for the candidate. And effectively we don’t want anyone to burst our balloon!

I am sure many who have done recruitment can relate to this. Our organisation has gone through an arduous recruitment process. Staff are whingeing and moaning “When is the new CEO going to be appointed?” “What is the Board doing?” ” Don’t they know we are hurting in the trenches?” “What is the funding body thinking?”   

Finally you have found the perfect candidate who has knocked your socks off in interview – the person is just what you have been searching for, the answer to your prayers. But there is one last snag – you still need to do a reference check!  Damn!

So what happens in reality? Well I find it is often one of two things.  You either skip it  – rationalising that this person is so good we would be wasting everyone’s time doing one. Or, you make the call to the nominated referee but run the interview in such a perfunctory way so as to further support our Pollyanna view of the person.

Admittedly, probably 90% of the time an organisation will get away with shoddy reference checking practices. But what you need to ask yourself if you are responsible for the recruitment process in your organisation is – “Do you want a Myer situation to happen on your watch?”

If the answer is “No” here is what we suggest you do.

Reference check all short-listed final candidates BEFORE interviewing them. Ask to talk with the candidate’s previous line managers. Don’t necessarily settle for the names put forward by a candidate. These people may be able to provide character references, which are important in the overall information gathering process but don’t really inform you as to whether the person has the skills and experience you are looking for.

Yes this may be time-consuming especially if you are forced into playing phone-tag with some referees but it  ensures you make a better and more informed recruitment decision.  Alternatively, use a specialist such as Cause and Effective. We are highly experienced in identifying inconsistencies and uncovering possible reservations. And our service is highly cost effective.

About Chris:  Chris Gandy is the founder and director of Cause and Effective – a provider of contingent resourcing and leadership search services to cause-based organisations.

About B-Cause

B-Cause is published by Cause and Effective. We help good causes find and attract effective leaders.

Thats our take on things. Over to you, please add to the discussion.

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