References from co-workers just as important as those from managers

Colleagues provide vital info on soft skills, says study

References from co-workers just as important as those from managers
Some job candidates limit references to former managers – but research suggests that feedback from co-workers are just as important, as such that such provide vital information on soft skills.

SkillSurvey’s text analysis study found that managers emphasize task-related behaviours, such as meeting deadlines or working independently. On the other hand, co-workers emphasize interpersonal behaviours, like being helpful or compassionate.

“In today’s workplace, where soft skills matter more than ever, these results really drive home the importance of a holistic reference check, where feedback from both former co-workers and managers is taken into consideration,” said Ray Bixler, SkillSurvey’s CEO and President.

“While managers may be able to speak to a candidate’s abilities, a co-worker may provide more insights about a candidate’s office presence and effectiveness as a teammate which has the potential to impact customer service, company culture, and organizational success.”

Results came from an analysis of 20,000 references (10,000 managers and 10,000 co-workers) for 5,000 job candidates who were applying for a job in one of 34 different industries, represented by 636 different companies.

The study found the most notable differences between what managers and co-workers provided in their open-ended feedback:

Areas of Strength



  • Understanding
  • Listening
  • Experience
  • Confidence/Assertiveness
  • Compassionate/Caring
  • Friendly
  • Knowledgeable
  • Helpful
  • Dependable
  • Reliable
  • Meets Deadlines
  • Works Independently


Areas of Improvement



  • Too helpful
  • Handling stress
  • Perfectionist
  • Works too much
  • Experience
  • Proactive

A broad majority of employers (86%) believe that completing reference checks before extendingan offer is one of the most important steps of the hiring process, according to a separate poll by SkillsSurvey in 2015. Nearly 70% said they reference check for every job candidate.

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