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How important are references in the recruitment process?

How important are references in the recruitment process?

16 Sep 10:00 by Jason Thornhill

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A recent discussion with an HVAC client brought up the issue of references and their importance in the recruitment process, with the client maintaining that their value is limited.

In their view, references are a tick box exercise that tell an employer very little about the person they are about to hire.

In our experience, however, references can be very valuable indeed, which is why we take time to obtain them and check them out. A reference can corroborate a candidate’s work history – or otherwise. Here is just one recent example:

A candidate who recently applied for a job through Thornhvac performed incredibly well when we interviewed him. We then checked his work record with his employer and found four things that changed our view on the candidate. 

Firstly, the candidate said he had been in an external sales role. His reference said he had worked in an internal sales role. 

Secondly, the candidate said he had worked at the company for 8 years. His reference said he had worked there for 6 years with a break of 2 years at another company in the middle. 

Thirdly, the candidate had told us he was prepared to work anywhere. His previous employer said he preferred to work locally and this was, in fact, why he had left the first time.

Finally, the candidate told us he was the best performer in a team of 10. The reference said he was mid-range. 

Equally, a strong reference and good CV can really help a candidate secure their next role. 

Tips for employers

References are not perfect, but they can help. Here are a few tips:

  • A good reference will be written by the candidate’s line manager, someone who has worked directly with them.

  • Their purpose should be to ascertain whether the candidate is suitable for the role they are applying for.

  • Questions should ideally focus on the competencies required for the job.

Tips for candidates
 
  • Keep your references warm, as most good employers require references to be taken.

  • The benefit of a reference saying good things about you can set you apart from a myriad of other applications.

  • It can help with salary negotiations. For example, if your reference has validated that you brought in £Xm of profit, then that could be the clincher that gets you the salary increase. 

 
Here at Thornhvac we aim to check references on all candidate before we put the CV forward to clients. 

You can find out more about what sets the Thornhvac recruitment process apart here.