who think they have landed a plum job ‘subject to references’ may be in for a
nasty shock. Despite the commonly held view that such checks are a formality,
research for IRS Employment Review shows that six out of 10 employers have
changed their minds at least once as a result of receiving a bad reference.
study shows that almost 90 per cent of employers using references want to know
about the applicant’s absence record, closely followed by the referee’s opinion
of the candidate’s performance which scores 83 per cent.
referee’s opinion of the person’s suitability for the vacancy was the third
area of interest, with two-thirds of employers regarding this as important.
history, punctuality and disciplinary record are further down the list of
in 10 employers ask for references once a decision has been made to offer the
candidate a job.
of public sector employers obtain references before candidate selection. In fact, almost one in five public sector
employers conduct their reference checks before any interviews are held – in
contrast to fewer than 4 per cent of private sector employers.
out of 10 employers have rejected a candidate, or failed to confirm an
appointment because of an unfavourable reference in the past year. A third of
employers polled have turned down one or two applicants because of the quality
of the reference.
the 113 organisations surveyed by IRS, 15 per cent have changed employment
decisions three or four times because of references in the last year and one in
10 firms have changed five or more employment decisions.
Employment Review recruitment and retention editor Neil Rankin commented on the
findings. He said: "For job hunters, this may be surprising news.
References seem to have a poor image, seen as a throwback to former times but
they are still an integral and significant part of the selection process. With the growth in specialist agencies able
to verify candidates’ details and applications, the process should not be underestimated."