Do Unsolicited References Have a Place In Recruitment?

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In the recruitment process, the job of a recruiter/hiring manager is to do the due diligence on potential employees, this includes conducting reference checks. These references aid in understanding who the candidate is, how they work, how they’re best managed etc; everything that you’d need to know about working with them, without working with them.

With this information, we are then able to assess whether the candidate would fit in with the company, the role, the culture – ideally, we’re after someone who would tick all of the right boxes. We know that these references are accurate and valuable as they come from a credible source (being a previous employer/client), so we can trust their professional opinion.

However, word of mouth and unsolicited references are becoming more and more present and are being used as a form of reference for candidates. People may know the candidate outside the workplace, or may have heard gossip about them and offer the information up to the hiring manager – thus swaying the hiring managers opinion of the potential employee. It’s difficult to be able to trust this reference, as it could be false or gossip.

Unfortunately, this is happening more often. Where hiring managers hear information from an internal source and take their word as gospel, ignoring the conducted references. Sometimes this can be positive and help the candidate, if it’s an internal referral or recommendation. However, it can also be negative and can jeopardise their chances in getting the job. This can be on the brink of slander and defamation – making a statement that will damage someones reputation.

Personally, I believe in getting as much information as possible about the potential employee. What I don’t agree with, however, is ignoring the facts and the professionally conducted references, and instead, making your decision based on hearsay. If the candidate is good, and a perfect fit, but you’re taking the word of someone who may not like the candidate for a reason outside of work, then it might be time to have a look at your own internal processes and see if it’s adding value to your business or not.

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