As employers' legal liabilities for the actions of staff become more extensive and complex it is important not to take shortcuts when checking applicants' references. Phil Boucher finds out how employers go about it
Patrick McGrath, HR director, says: our simple rule is that no-one gets though the door without a satisfactory reference from a former employer - it cannot simply be from a friend or ex-colleague.
We write to their employer and ask for two things: a reference, and a list of questions about the person which asks what sort of job they had; when they started; why they left; what their attendance was like; how many days off they took; and whether they were ever involved in misconduct.
It is basically a comment on the character of the individual and we will not progress with an application if it is unsatisfactory.
In addition we also cold-call former employers to make some checks on the individual who has sent the reference: to make sure they exist and have been telling the truth. We also check on other aspects of the application such as education, whether the applicant went to university and what grades they achieved.
These rules apply throughout the organisation. In fact, the higher up the hierarchy you go the easier it is to check on people because they may have been mentioned in the press at some stage.
The only difference is if someone is applying for a job in a financial or a booking capacity as there might be more questions asked about their character. You basically adapt what you look for to the role in hand.
Saudugar Singh, HR director, says: for most positions we use a standard form that asks for information on attendance, punctuality, reliability and attitude. It also asks for confirmation of the applicant's job title, period of employment and final salary, just to make sure all is as it should be.
As you go up the organisation to senior managers, we make a phone call as well. Ideally, we talk to the referee, the previous boss or manager and basically have a conversation about the applicant.
To round off the process we send a letter asking the referee to confirm the information we have and provide details of the candidate's final position, what they were doing in the job and what their major accomplishments were. If the job is particularly sensitive we may also use an outside agency to help.
But the whole