Ray Bixler of SkillSurvey on Best Practices for Performing Reference Checks


Tell us about SkillSurvey. What services do you offer?

SkillSurvey is the leader in online reference checking and credentialing, providing immediately useful insights to help employers make more informed hiring decisions. SkillSurvey reduces time-to-hire for all industries, with their largest markets being healthcare, higher education, retail, consumer products, finance and staffing/RPO organizations. Its cloud-based referencing and credentialing solutions answer vital questions that help organizations hire people who best fit their open positions and company.

Pre-Hire 360 provides insight into past job performance and is proven to predict future turnover, hiring manager satisfaction and performance ratings. An unmatched library of scientifically-designed surveys produces job-specific data employers can trust. SkillSurvey Credential OnDemand provides healthcare organizations with streamlined digital credentialing that simplifies and enhances the credentialing experience for all participants.

How much value do employers place on references during the recruitment process?

Our research shows that reference checking is not only another piece of the recruiting puzzle, but has become an integral part of the hiring process that allows employers to gain more strategic insight when making hiring decisions. In a survey SkillSurvey conducted using 300 HR professionals, the majority of respondents said reference checking is considered critical for improving the quality of candidates a company hires. And nearly 70 percent say they reference check for every job candidate. Not surprisingly, 98 percent of respondents ranked the interview as the most important step in the hiring process, but completing reference checks before extending a job offer was a close second at 86 percent.

Why are references so important to getting to know a recruit?

References are the only people who can talk in real, concrete terms about the candidate’s past workplace performance. One of the best things employers can do is to give references a confidential way to share honest feedback and ask about actual experiences with the candidate, rather than simply calling the references to confirm the basics about someone’s employment history. When done right, reference checking allows a recruiter to determine if the way you’ve represented yourself aligns with your previous employer’s assessment of your performance.

What types of questions should recruiters and employers be asking job candidates?

Ask behavioral-based, open-ended questions that are aligned with the job the applicant is seeking rather than yes or no questions. These type of questions uncover what kinds of working conditions are ideal for the candidate, with less of the focus on their direct accomplishments. It is important to ask job-specific questions about a potential new hire’s communication style as well as managerial style. The goal of these questions is to figure out who this candidate is in the work place, what environment they thrive in, and their strengths and weaknesses as an employee.

What are the most common reasons or excuses recruiters might give for not checking references?

One of the most common excuses is that it is time consuming when completing references using the phone. New online cloud-based programs like SkillSurvey make this step much more efficient. For example, higher education has one of the longest time-to-fills of any institution, but with the use of cloud-based reference checking, universities are seeing up to four references completed in a day and a half. The same goes for our healthcare clients. By using an automated reference checking system, our clients are seeing their time-to-hire dramatically decrease.

What are the risks of not checking references?

There are all types of coaching opportunities that candidates can leverage these days. They can even go online and search for interview questions and how to best answer them. Because today’s candidates are so good at playing the interview game, it’s important to get as much outside input on candidates as you possibly can. This is where references come in: Their third-party points of view will help you see who the candidate really is and how they work versus only getting the candidate’s point-of-view.

What are the benefits of using an online job-seeking software during the recruiting process?

Anything that’s automated and online can immediately streamline the hiring process and making it more efficient. Job-seeking software is just one more way that recruiting has become part of the 21st century push for easy access and reliability.

What are best practices for using online job-seeking software?

For a job seeker, one of the most important things you can do is have your references prepped and ready in case you are called in for an interview. If your references are readily available when an employer asks for them, it indicates that you’ve informed and prepared them to take a call or an online request – all good signs that you’re someone who is focused, thorough and motivated.

What online recruiting trends or innovations are you most excited about right now?

I think the continued use of big data and data mining has been a truly important step in human resources and recruiting. The use of analytics is fine-tuning the recruitment process and making it that much easier to find quality hires.

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Ray Bixler is the CEO of SkillSurvey, a reference-checking technology firm that harnesses the power of references to help organizations more effectively recruit, hire and retain talent.

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