Reference Checks: Why Bother?

I’ve been a recruiter since 1972 and have checked many references.

I have never heard a former employer say, “Jeff, you would be doing a disservice to your client if you referred this person.”


“Jeff, tell your client to run, not walk, to the next candidate. This one is a human excrement.”

No, everyone says nice polite things about their former colleague or subordinate. Once in a while, an employer will say, “Sorry, our firm has a policy against our giving references for all former employees.”

I’ll test that by trying to reference check someone else and invariably it is a company-wide prohibition.

So why do companies bother checking references?

I know you’re trying to identify the one imbecile who turns over a manager’s name to you who will say critical things about them.

But that seldom happens.

Is it worth everyone’s time to make those phone calls or would your firm be far better off getting written authorization to do a credit check, a background check (for criminal conduct) and a Google search and call it a day?

After all, if statistically the number of failures in the process (failure to obtain adverse information and obtaining mediocre information in its stead) so greatly exceeds results, why waste time that could be put to better use?

© 2012 all rights reserved


Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter has been a coach and recruiter for what seems like one hundred years.

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