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