Honest References Required

Is honesty the best policy when dealing with reference checks?

There should only be one answer to this question.

That answer is a resounding: ‘Yes!’

If only the reality of recruitment practices reflected this basic principle during the reference checking process. Unfortunately, there are numerous examples of the recruitment process failing at the very end, due to dishonest approaches by either the candidate or the potential employer in an effort to get the recruitment job done and to get the candidate into the job itself.

The most common example comes from the assessment of the candidate’s personal or behavioural attributes. Many employers fear the threat of a lawsuit if they provide a negative reference for a former employee. Rather than telling the ‘truth’, however, employers find themselves giving neutral information that says nothing at all about someone’s conduct or professional behaviour. Many organizations have a policy that restricts reference providers to giving fact based information only, such as confirmation of employment history with no performance or behaviour related commentary. While not dishonest, this approach may not provide the reference checker with a full picture of the candidate’s behavioural profile.

A recent decision by the Ontario Supreme Court has relieved this burden of neutrality on the part of the employer. This case establishes a precedent that an unfavourable, and yet honest, opinion of the former employee is acceptable.

Click here to read about the case

On the employer side, manipulation and dishonest practices have also left a stain on the integrity of recruitment practices. Sometimes recruiters themselves make fraudulent claims about a candidate in order to get that person into a position and collect the resulting monetary reward. The results from these types of actions are extremely costly and severely damaging. The need for ethical and honest practices on the recruitment side are explored in a recent article posted in HRM On-line magazine.

Click here to read the article  

What does good HR practice require us to do?

Allow for time to get integrity-based reference checking done right.

HR practitioners need to plan and prepare for this final stage of the recruitment process with the same amount of focus, integrity and due diligence that has gone into all of the previous recruitment and selection steps. There is no benefit from rushing and manipulating the reference checking process just to get through the final stage as quickly as possible.

The investment in making a sound hiring decision is just as important at the end as it was in the beginning. The constructive results from an honest and integrity-based process all the way through will always prove to be the right way to go.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Thinking of your own situation, who will you approach for professional and constructive references in your job search?
  2. As an HR practitioner, what steps can you put into place to ensure the integrity of the reference checking process?
  3. If you found out someone gave a bad reference for you, what actions would you take?
  4. How will you respond to someone who asks you for a reference that you would not be able to support?



It’s Not Me, It’s You


At the end of a carefully constructed and well-planned recruitment process, the decision is made to hire the right person into a job, and the hope for a successful employment relationship begins.

So, what happens if there is a realization that the person selected for the job is not the right one and no amount of performance management is going to change the fact that a mistake was made in the decision-making process?

According to an article published by Harvard Business Review, a successful hiring decision is made only 19% of the time. Furthermore, the article goes on to state that after eighteen months, 46% of hiring decision are deemed to be ‘failures’.

Click here to read the article.

These are unfortunate indicators that fly in the face of sound recruitment and staffing strategies. No matter what the statistical rates may be, as noted in the article, there is no doubt that organizations must plan for the fact that not all hiring decisions will lead to successful, long-term outcomes.

As with most relationships, when an employee begins working for an organization there is a typical ‘honeymoon’ stage where an individual’s quirks or foibles may not be cause for immediate concern. This stage can wear off quickly once those individual characteristics begin to impede organizational progress and productivity. In a workplace setting, the wrong person in the wrong job must be identified and managed in a constructive way that prevents on-going harm to both the individual employee and the rest of the organization.

Letting someone go when there are clear indicators that the employment relationship is just not going to work may be painful. This is especially true when both the employee and the employer have invested time, money, and resources in good faith, hoping the relationship will work. When there are clear indicators that the employment relationship is not destined for success, it is imperative that an even more important decision is made—to call the whole thing off.


Discussion Questions:

  1. In your role as an HR practitioner, what advice would you give an employer if you were involved in making a bad hiring decision?
  2. Identify three performance indicators that organizations should use to measure a new employee’s success in their role within the first month of employment.
  3. Thinking about your own work experience, what would you do if you started a new position with an employer and realized that the job was not for you? What steps would you take to try to improve the situation before making the decision to quit?


It’s Time!

Rich businessman lighting cigar with $100 dollar bill

Trudeau feels it’s time for employers to Step Up.

Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, is challenging the business leaders to a call for action. He stated while on tour in Germany:

“When companies post record profits on the backs of workers consistently refused full-time work – and the job security that comes with it – people get defeated,”  Trudeau said.


Prime Minister Trudeau feels that:

“We have to address the root cause of their worries and get real about how the changing economy is impacting peoples’ lives.”

Click here to read Trudeau’s thoughts on this topic.

He is right – here are just some recent headlines:

  • Apple reports a quarterly profit of $18.4 billion, the largest in history
  • Airlines report record profits even as customer complaints soar
  • GM earns $9.43 billion in 2016; UAW workers get record profit sharing
  • Canada’s Food Manufacturing Industry to See Record Profits in 2016
  • US banks just recorded their most profitable quarter ever
  • Amazon just posted a record profit for the third straight quarter
  • Canadian banks made $31.7 billion last year

These above headlines are not “Fake News;”  this is what is going on in business right now in North America. A significant number of organizations are doing well, and many are doing very well and some are doing exceptionally well. But what is happening in the labour market with all this economic and business growth?

In December 2016, Statistics Canada noted that for the second month in a row, all the gains were in part-time positions, and noted the jobless rate fell because fewer people were seeking work. Some 8,700 full-time jobs were lost in November while 19,400 part-time positions were added.

These kind of statistics are not breeding optimism in the Canadian worker. Trudeau states very clearly what he believes should happen:

“For business leaders, it’s about thinking beyond your short-term responsibility to your shareholders,” he said. “It’s time to pay a living wage, to pay your taxes and give your workers the benefits – and peace of mind – that come with stable, full-time contracts.”

For an employee to feel engaged they must feel part of the organization. To increase workplace loyalty one place to start is for employers to provide full-time job opportunities to workers especially when they are seeing record profits.

Discussion Question

  1. You have been asked to by your VP of HR to assist her in developing a business case about the benefits of hiring more full-time employees over contingency workers. Conduct some research to defend your arguments in the business case.

Recruitment vs. Reality


Wooden sign- Happily Ever After
Source: melis/Shutterstock

As a student in the Human Resources field, you have probably heard the analogy that the recruitment process is very similar to the rituals of courtship.  There is the initial interest; then the attraction; then the getting to know each other through some dating; and then, if all goes well, a long term commitment is formed by partners for life.

Recruitment follows a similar pattern.  There is the initial interest and attraction to a position with a particular company; then there are at least a few interviews to get to know what the mutual expectations are; and then, if all goes well, a long-term commitment is formed by the contract of employment between two partners.

In both processes, we may see or hear some things that we do not particularly like, but in the haze of mutual courtship, we may choose to ignore these things or hope that they might be minor details that will not get in the way of long-term commitment and mutual success.

Then, reality sets in.

In most cases, partnerships work through the annoyances together.  If, however, the things that we chose to ignore during the courtship and/or recruitment process become glaringly evident and turn into unsurmountable obstacles, the relationship will come to an unfortunate end.

As HR professionals, we can avoid the inevitable break-up of the employment relationship by ensuring that the recruitment process is focused on reality for both parties, before any commitments are made.

Anna-Lucia Mackay outlines the need for multi-step recruitment processes that are focused on facts and reality-checking.

Click Here to Read the Article.

The author provides us with a detailed end-to-end approach for successful recruitment, to help HR professionals and candidates ensure mutual compatibility before contracts are signed and the path to the future is set for everyone.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Identify three key indicators that behavioural interviews provide to the employer in a recruitment process.
  2. What types of questions should be asked of a candidate’s references to ensure fact-checking?
  3. How will you know you are getting the answers you need from a candidate’s references?
  4. What are three potential warning signs during a recruitment process that the HR professional should not ignore?

Time is the Answer


Hands holding clocks
Source: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock

The question is, how do we, as Human Resources professionals, make the recruitment process successful for both parties?

Time can be our best friend or our worst enemy, especially as it is one of the key components of any recruitment strategy.   In a recent LinkedIn post, Scott Case states that we need to ‘get real’ with candidates about the actual skills, culture, and work environment that are involved in any interview process.  More importantly, he identifies how quickly we expect the interview process to proceed and the pressure that is in place to make the hiring decision as soon as possible.

Click Here to Read the Article

Making sure that the interview process is transparent, however, does not just happen.  A commitment to transparency about the types of skills, culture and work environment that the organization really wants, comes from a well-planned, and well-timed end-to-end strategic recruitment process.  It is true that the candidate really does need to understand what the potential workplace is like.  After all, the employment decision is not just on the side of the employer.  The candidate too has to make the big decision whether or not this particular job, with this particular employer, is the right fit for them based on their own personal values and workplace experiences.

When we think about making the big decisions in our own lives, most of us need lots of time to think about the pros and cons of that decision. When decision-making is rushed, the end result often does not work out well for anyone involved.  When hiring decisions go wrong, the impact has significant negative ripple effects on all of the parties involved.  As Human Resources professionals, we need to ensure that the hiring decision goes the right way, by allowing everyone involved to have the time to make the decisions they need to make, based on well planned, thoughtful, and transparent processes along the way.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Thinking about your own approach to decision making, what steps do you follow to make the ‘right’ decision for you?
  2. After going through a recruitment process as a candidate, have you ever decided that the position you were interested in was not the right one for you? What happened during the process that helped you make that decision?
  3. As a Human Resources Professional, identify how much time is needed for an end-to-end successful recruitment process.
  4. Why is it important to ensure that candidates have a clear understanding of the required skills, work culture, and the environment involved for any position in any organization?