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Online Reference Checking Explained



Reference checking is a hiring staple, it’s the only part of the recruitment process that leverages an opinion about a candidate’s capabilities, from someone other than the candidate. 

But it’s fair to say it is not something that, in its traditional, phone-based form, is enjoyed by anyone involved. It’s time-consuming, inconsistent and leaves candidates in the dark while their prospective employer and ex-colleague play phone tag. 

The alternative to this old, manual approach in online reference checking

What can you expect from an online reference checking process? 

Unlike phone-based references, online reference checks are easily managed and predictable, adding assurance to a process that is otherwise entirely in the hands of the individual conducting it. 

An online platform will offer: 

  • A mobile-friendly experience - catching candidates and their references on the phone can be difficult. An online process enables employers to request references and candidates to input their details on the move, and allows references to respond at a time and using the device that best suits them.
  • Regular updates - often with phone-based references, the only person who knows the exact progress of the process is the employer or recruiter but, even in their case, they will often be unclear about just how long it might take. An online process provides both the employer and the candidate with regular updates on the progress of the reference and a clear understanding of the reasons for any delays. 
  • A tailored approach - rather than relying on the same template for every hire, online reference checking allows employers to tailor their reference questions to the role and even candidate, ensuring the feedback they receive is relevant and supports their hiring decision. 
  • A consistent process - even when templates are used, phone-based reference checks will often be conducted differently depending on the person leading the process. An online platform ensures that every reference is conducted fairly, avoiding any chance of candidate discrimination and ensuring all references are managed compliantly. 
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What does an Xref reference involve?

With Xref, online reference checking is a simple 3 step process:

1. A 30-second request 

The Xref journey starts when an employer or recruiter enters the details of their candidate into the Xref platform. 

2. The candidate provides details 

This initial request triggers an email to the candidate, asking them to provide details of their reference contacts. 

3. References provide their feedback 

Once the candidate’s job is complete, their references receive an email linking to the Xref platform and asking them to provide their feedback online, against a set of questions defined by the employer. 

The important, fourth stage in the process is the return of the reference reports, that the employer or recruiter receives as soon as a reference is completed.

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What are the benefits? 

In light of the features mentioned above, there are a number of benefits that an online reference checking process offers, including:

Improved time-to-hire 

With just 30 seconds to request and, on average, 24 hours for a reference to be returned, the process is expedited significantly, as discovered by Xref user Kimberley Hubble from Hudson RPO who noted: 

“Xref takes on average, five days out of our recruiting process. It allows our recruiters to spend more time building hiring manager relationships." 

Better candidate and reference experience 

Rather than being left in the dark about the progress of their reference, candidates are kept up to speed. Meanwhile, their references experience less disruptive calls during working hours and can respond at a time that suits them. The team at Lion have noticed the impact of these benefits, with Katharine Davidson, Talent Acquisition Leader stating: 

“Xref has made the reference checking process so quick and easy for our candidates and for their referees.” 

Compliant pipelining opportunities 

For many, the reference checking process poses an opportunity to add to their pipeline of future candidates or, in the case of recruitment agencies, new business opportunities. However, often the way a reference’s data is recorded, stored and used is non-compliant. With Xref’s People Search tool, users are able to securely store the contact details of references who have provided explicit consent to be contacted at a later date. For Australian Unity, the benefit of this is two-fold, the compliance and convenience of finding potential new recruits: 

“Having access to a proactive searching platform reduces our need for costly job advertising, minimises recruitment spend and enables us to make targeted recruitment efforts.” 

Secure data management 

Traditional reference checking processes often rely on manually updated files including contact details and notes taken while on the phone to a reference that are then recorded and stored on a company’s database. With an online platform, all contact details and feedback are collected and securely stored for future use. For APG&Co. this additional layer of security is something they hadn’t previously considered but are very grateful for since using Xref:  

“We also enjoy the assurance that we are complying with data privacy regulations, a risk we hadn’t sufficiently acknowledged when referencing in the past.”

Confident hiring decisions

Hiring decisions made using the outputs of a traditional reference checking process risk being jeopardised by misinterpretations, a lack of reliable insights and fraudulent candidate activity. An online process ensures that reference feedback is shared verbatim, the insights received are both detailed and accurately interpreted and, with Xref, that any unusual activity that occurs during the process is detected. The fraud detection piece has been particularly important for the team at Michael Hill

“We would not have actively sought out fraudulent activity during the reference checking phase before, it would really just have been down to luck if we identified anything suspicious.” 

Getting the most value from an online process

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While online reference checks provide a fast and consistent approach for every hire, there are three ways employers can ensure they are driving the best, most valuable results. 

1. Optimise questionnaires 

Working with our customer success team, Xref users are able to make sure their reference templates include the right number and type of questions for the role being filled. Our free Template Builder tool also offers anyone the opportunity to build a template using best-practice, compliant reference questions. 

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2. Prepare candidates 

Our team offers all users some key advice for ensuring their candidates are prepared before they hit submit on their reference request. This ensures that they not only know what to expect from the process themselves but are able to give their references the information they need before they receive a request. 

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3. Consider timings

Being sympathetic to the expectations placed on references is as important as it is to do whatever you can to encourage a fast response. While we find that many Xref users receive their responses back over weekends and public holidays, when references have more time to consider their response, we encourage requests submitted on weekdays. 

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When should you consider using online reference checks?

For some, a digital, online reference check seems like something best suited to only specific roles or industries. 

Since launch, the Xref platform has been adopted to run reference checks on almost every role type and level, across a full spread of industries. 

In recruitment, time is of the essence and in a challenging market, minimising recruitment admin is key to remaining competitive. Digital reference checking takes the legwork out of a critical recruitment task to ensure it is done quickly and with compliance.

But the buck doesn’t stop at certain roles or industries. Regardless of the talent you’re looking for, robust reference checking remains essential for confident recruitment decisions. 

Why not book a demo with one of our team to find out why Xref could be a valuable alternative to your current reference checking method? 

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