The Real Benefits of Reference Checking

There is a lot of debate and divided views in the sector on the real benefits and validity placed on referencing checking. In particular, the emphasis or weighting that should be given to the information provided by referees when making a selection decision.

Having worked in Aged Care for over 15 years and for the past 7 years being directly involved in a broad range of recruitment work, reference checking has always been a natural and essential part of correct processes. It is a protocol that we have always undertaken to ensure scrupulous candidate screening for our clients.

We were reminded recently of the importance of risk management in recruiting and the absolute importance of the reference checking process.

I was working with a candidate who was actively seeking a position we were working on for a client – the candidate presented with an impressive resume, a “proven” track record with long tenures and a social media profile that highlighted a well-credentialed and highly experienced Heath/Aged Care Manager.

Because of my understanding of the sector, I pay particular attention at interview to “breaking down” the true nature of candidate’s experience, in order to fully understand the scope and size of responsibilities and the challenges faced.

After 3 in-depth interviews with me and our longstanding client (as well as extensive social media review), the candidate was offered a position, pending favourable reference checks. I embarked upon what I thought was going to be the final stage of the process and I asked the candidate to provide the referee details of present and past employers.

The first referee was a colleague from the candidate’s current employer – they worked with the candidate during their tenure at the organisation – they outlined that the candidate held quite a different level of role from the one that had been described to us and our client. To be sure (and fair) I questioned the referee 3 times (in different ways) about the candidate’s current role and their responsibilities. The referee answers were consistently the same – the responsibility and the scope of the role that the candidate outlined at interview was not in fact reality. The referee had confirmed that the candidate had elevated the level and scope of responsibilities in their current role and that they had been in fact been untruthful.

A subsequent phone call with the candidate resulted in them being unprepared to provide any further referees to clarify the situation, followed by them quickly withdrew their application.

 The irony of the situation was that the role being recruited for was at a level reasonably consistent with the true position held by the candidate. The elevation of responsibilities was a “sales pitch” the candidate did not need to present – they were assessed as capable for the role in question – the inconsistency was discovered because of the focus of the reference checking, which results from our sector knowledge.

It was disappointing that the candidate had been dishonest but we provided absolute transparency to our client about the reference checking process and, as we expected, they chose not to proceed with the candidate as they had proved to be untruthful.

In this situation, our client dodged a “bad hire” – and I reinforced my commitment to providing integrity and absolute honesty.

If you would like to discuss the reference checking process or speak  further with me about the stringent processes we have in place for recruitment, please call on 0438 748 846 or email me at


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