References Remain Critical in Hiring Practices

OfficeTeam released a statement touting the results of an employer survey that illustrates how references impact the hiring of candidates. See if this coincides with your own company’s practices. (Sometimes, as a joke, when my colleagues and friends use me for a reference, when their potential employers call, I like to answer with, "How did you get this number?," in a really accusatory and put-off tone. Screaming "Who dis is?!?!?" is also a lot of fun.)

A strong resume and interview may place job seekers in the running for a position, but a new survey from OfficeTeam finds the results of a reference check can be the real deal maker — or breaker. Managers interviewed said they remove more than one in five (21 percent) candidates from consideration after speaking to their professional contacts. When it comes to what hiring managers are looking for when speaking to references, more than a third (36 percent) said they are most interested in getting input on an applicant’s past job duties and experience. Learning about the individual’s strengths and weaknesses came in second, with 31 percent of the response.

The survey was developed by OfficeTeam, a leading staffing service specializing in the placement of highly skilled administrative professionals. It was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on telephone interviews with more than 1,000 senior managers at companies with 20 or more employees. 

Managers were asked, “Approximately what percentage of job candidates do you remove from consideration for a position with your company after checking their references?” The average response was 21 percent. 

Managers also were asked, “When speaking to an applicant’s job references, what is the most important information you hope to receive?” Their responses:

  • Description of past job duties and experience – 36%
  • A view into the applicant’s strengths and weaknesses – 31%
  • Confirmation of job title and dates of employment – 11%
  • Description of workplace accomplishments – 8%
  • A sense of the applicant’s preferred work culture – 7%
  • Other/don’t know – 7%

“When hiring managers narrow the field to a few potential candidates, the reference check often becomes the deciding factor,” said OfficeTeam executive director Robert Hosking. “To distinguish themselves from the competition, job seekers should assemble a solid list of contacts who can persuasively communicate their qualifications and professional attributes.”