“If you really want to paint a picture of a candidate you need to ask the right questions at the reference checking stage.”
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Jennifer Murray, Talent Acquisition Specialist at Global Student Accommodation (GSA), tells us why she chose Xref to help transform GSA's hiring processes.
We provide accommodation to students and we’re the only player that’s really offering this on a global scale. We operate in nine countries and 55 cities and we’re still growing.
We’re about 600 staff across real estate and operations. In our recruitment team, we’ve got some people in people and culture, we’ve got people partners focused on different areas of the business, and then we’ve got specialists like myself in talent acquisition. It’s a very flat, lean structure - we don’t have people dedicated to looking after admin tasks. We occasionally bring in an intern but we use technology to automate our processes as much as we can.
When I started in 2019 there were limited and inconsistent recruitment processes in place. Our team heard about new starters when their payroll was being processed! It was taking too long for us to make new hires, so hiring managers would stop coming to the people team because they wanted things to be done faster.
So we did a review and asked, “What are our processes?”, “What contracts are in place?”, and “What checks do we need to do on new starters?”
Because there was nothing in place to start with, we could make quick wins. We started in July and by November I was able to go out with recruitment training. It was fast and we changed things on the fly.
It was a big task to pick it all apart and put some structure in place but I’m really happy with it now.
We put Xref in quite quickly. Previously, our reference checks would be done manually. The manager would send out a template word document by email, which just asked the referee to rate the candidate’s skills from 1-5. There was no process in place to check it when it came back, or even if it came back. It was a very unreliable system.
When we first started using Xref and we uploaded our template we realised how bad it was and that it wasn’t really giving us the information we needed. So we took the time to review it and add in the questions that give us a much greater word count.
Referencing had been such a box-ticking exercise for us before but Xref has helped us to move more towards getting more of a holistic look at the candidate. Now, we share everything with the managers to give them better insight into who they’re hiring. They really appreciate it.
We have previously experienced issues of inappropriate behaviour by staff, so we need the reference check to tell us more about a candidate. When we reviewed our questionnaire, we added in questions that would provide more insight into the candidate’s suitability to work with potentially vulnerable adults, for example.
We also now find that we receive more feedback that reinforces what we’re uncovered at the interview stage or information that we wouldn’t otherwise have access to, such as the candidate’s reliability.
I think, if you really want to paint a picture of a candidate you need to take a close look at your questioning. For us, we started with a tick-box but as issues arose we saw how we could solve business problems by asking the right questions at the reference checking stage.
Yes, we have actually been able to weave in questions that need to be asked but don’t fit into any other part of the recruitment process. For example, we employ a lot of night workers and, for these candidates, we need a confirmation that they have completed a night assessment - nowhere in our process were we asking if they had this so we added it to our candidate questionnaire in Xref.
We don’t have a lot of systems so we need to make use of what we’ve got and make it work for us.
It’s also really easy to get new starters up and running on Xref. Someone started working in our real estate team recently and asked for training on doing references. She had booked an hour call in and it took us about three seconds! Anyone can pick it up, it’s as simple as, “Here are your login details, go for it.”
To begin with, we just wanted Xref to get references done, but then we reviewed every job in every region against requirements and created a template for each. Now we’ve built out templates for different regions and roles so we’re not taking a one-size-fits-all approach. It’s a much better experience for candidates, we’re no longer faced with lots of questions and we make sure we capture exactly what we need. We would never have been able to do that manually with an email and phone call.
It all comes down to ROI - will the returns we achieve make the investment worthwhile? Once you’ve got the budget then it’s about features; how easily can the tool let you do what you want to do and what other platforms does it integrate with?
We also require a number of other background checks, such as DBS, credit and working with children checks. As uCheck is an integration partner of Xref’s and provides a number of these, we decided to also start using uCheck after implementing Xref. This really simplifies and streamlines our pre-employment checking process and the set up was so quick - it was amazing!
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