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Can you spot a fake reference?

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HC Online | 01 Oct 2013, 12:01 AM Agree 0
HR has a trained eye for spotting questionable details on resumes – but now some candidates are turning to fake reference services and it may be time to background-check not just the candidates but the referees.
  • Glenda May | 01 Oct 2013, 04:53 PM Agree 0
    “How do I get valuable comments from a referee check?”

    This is one of the most comment questions I am asked by selection interviewers.

    I don't even like the term referee 'check' - it sounds as if you have made up your mind and just need a tick or cross. The conversation with the referee is not a chat - it is a structured job-focused interview. You will be interviewing the referee just as you interviewed the candidate.

    I like to make an appointment first rather than "have you got a couple of minutes?". This flags it will be a serious meeting not just adhoc comments. In the intervening time I will email them the job or at least the key selection criteria so that they can reflect and prepare their responses. Of course a good candidate will have contacted the referee and briefed them as to what achievements s/he would like the referee to verify.

    Your job is to get a balanced report. As most referees are not keen to offer negative comments, try the following:

    "Could you rank the Key Selection Criteria from strongest to weakest?"
    "What would you have liked X to improve on more than anything?"
    "What was on their development plan?"
    and of course "Would you employ X again?"

    And then follow up with probes for specifics.
    Listen to the non-verbals: the hesitancy, the qualifiers ("well I would if...”) and the lack or abundance of enthusiasm.
    I have even had surprisingly helpful responses to this question "Is there anything I haven't asked you that I should have?"
    If you get a “poor“ comment, you need to probe for evidence just like you probe the candidate for specifics. If you get conflicting reports from two referees, you must go to a third. Something is going on!

    These are some ideas that have been effective in selection panels to whom I have consulted.
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