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Salvation Army: Getting to Know Candidates with Xref

“I always recommend people to use Xref. It saves you time and is better for compliance reasons. It’s well worth the investment.”

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“Reference checks help you support your new hires while also holding them accountable. They help you get to know the person while also creating an opportunity for open and honest conversations about strengths and weaknesses.”

48 hrs

average reference turnaround time


completed references to date


references completed outside of business hours

Xref spoke to Rosalyn Rudran, Head of HR Systems, and Sarah Ladipo, Recruitment Manager, at The Salvation Army about their decision to automate reference checks and what they love about Xref.

Tell us about hiring at The Salvation Army

Sarah: We hire for a vast array of roles,  including care assistants, support workers, ancillary workers, head office roles for instance in finance, property, procurement and also community activities.

Reference checking itself is very important and with so much diversity in our hiring we simply couldn’t manage it manually. Sometimes we’re collecting up to 20 references with a mixture of character and professional references, even requesting references from religious ministers. Xref has made the whole process more streamlined and enjoyable.

Why are reference checks so important to you? 

Sarah: As an organisation references are important to us, as it provides us with further insight into a candidates career history.

If you have a glowing reference then someone starts and you have performance concerns, it provides the foundation for you to ask them where they might need some help or how they feel the role might differ from their expectations.

In our reference checks, we always ask about the candidate’s character. For example, if they will be working with vulnerable people, we ask their referee if the candidate is suited to this type of role. With the reference response, DBS and other pre-employment checks you have a level of confidence that you know the candidate is who they say they are.

This creates an opportunity for open and honest conversation with the candidate. For example, if they fell below expectations, we can talk to them about why. There’s usually a good reason and you can see how they’ve applied their learnings to the next role.

All in all, a reference check gives you a good 360-degree view of the candidate and allows you to give them the support they need.

How long was it taking you to collect references before?

Sarah: Before we started using Xref, references would take a couple of weeks to collect. You might send a request, then get an out of office reply or find out you have the wrong email address, then you would need to go back to the candidate, and so on.

The recruitment team started using Xref because we were doing references manually. In one day we might recruit five or six people and for each we would have to send all referees an email reference request, write down that we had sent it, then remember to follow up by tracking it in a spreadsheet. It was very taxing on our time.

What was the catalyst for change?

Rosalyn: We’re continuously looking at re-engineering processes where we think we can gain efficiencies, particularly when it comes to streamlining administration or finding alternatives for repetitive tasks. Where we can save time and resources by procuring systems that can replace or progress things, we try to do that.

It’s not just about the manpower on our part to request a reference, it’s also the time it takes for references to be returned. We have a lot of campaigns running and you see the time it takes to chase up references and realise that it’s more cost-effective to digitise that part of the process.

Why did you choose Xref?

Rosalyn: In 2016 our recruitment provision was centralised. We introduced automated reference checking at the same time and Xref has really worked for us.

We looked at a couple of products but Xref just seemed very clean and had a nice interface. We’ve been able to design the questionnaires and have had the flexibility to build in things like character references and add branding.

What do you look for in an HR tech product?

Rosalyn: Firstly, I would say functionality is key, and aligning that to our requirements.

Secondly, I'd also say we look at the ethos of the company that we're partnering with; we want to understand how they respond to their customer needs and requirements.

Finally, the usability of the system is important. We need to know that the UI is clean and simple and that you can understand how to use the system as soon as you log in.

When we were comparing providers, Xref came out best in all of these areas. The people we dealt with made sure they understood how we work and what is important to us and ensured that the product responded to that. They were flexible with their approach and cost-wise things worked out for us too.

How do you customise Xref for your organisation?

Sarah: We make use of the different referencing criteria you can set up. That way it is easy for us to select the makeup of the references we’re trying to collect. You can enter the candidate details then say, “this time I need two character references and one professional reference”.

How have you benefited from using Xref?

Rosalyn: When we’re going through the recruitment process now, we just trigger an email to the candidate from Xref, they log in and complete the referee details, so it’s shifting the onus and responsibility from the recruitment team - who are involved in lots of other tasks.

Our reference turnaround time has reduced from around three weeks to two days, which is great.

How do you find the process of requesting and tracking a reference?

Sarah: One of the things I love - and I have to use the word love - about Xref is that it keeps you updated on the progress of the references every step of the journey! You can request a reference then go away and do other things - you don’t have to keep logging in to the system. The system tells you when references are completed or if they were unobtainable.

We actually get candidates coming to us saying “I know my references are completed, I received an update from Xref. Can I start yet?” Xref is great at engaging with the user and providing the necessary support.

I was asked what I thought about Xref by an ex-colleague and I told them that I can’t think of a bad thing to say about it. They now use Xref for all of their volunteers.

With Xref you can be trained once and you’re ready to go. Whenever we’re onboarding new team members we get to Xref and say, “this is the fun part, you don’t even need to take notes because it’s just so simple.”

I love that with the unusual activity flags in the system, you can now mark it to say “yes this is fraudulent, or, no, this is not fraudulent”. We have had instances where we have caught out references that can’t be used through this feature and we wouldn’t have been able to do that over email.

Whenever people in the business are hiring for other projects we always tell them to use Xref. It’s worth the money. It saves you time and it’s better for compliance reasons too, because you have the full history of the reference.

Why is having an audit trail important to you?

Sarah: The audit trail in Xref can help you keep track of candidates and keep on top of the process.

The audit trail allows you to see every aspect of the reference request once it is initiated. You have overview of when the request was sent, accessed, rejected, if it is unobtainable and once it is completed. You can even see the date and times of every reminder sent via the system.  This allows you to offer additional support and guidance to a candidate when the response rate is slightly longer than usual from referees and look into data around time to hire/metrics.

If a team member is unavailable and a manager needs to know that a reference has been received, if we didn’t have Xref it might be somewhere in their inbox and we wouldn’t be able to access it. With Xref, anyone can find the reference so it keeps things moving along.

If you could summarise Xref in one sentence what would you say?

Sarah: Xref is referencing made easy. It takes the stress out of referencing for you and gives you the peace of mind to know that it’s done properly.

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