BoatAccording to a new survey from SkillSurvey, which offers an online reference-checking solution, 70 percent of hiring professionals always check references for every candidate.

That number is higher than I expected it to be. Beyond verifying dates of employment, what useful information can a reference really give you?

As it turns out, there are a lot of benefits to reference-checking – provided you’re not still stuck in the Stone Age, checking references by telephone. SkillSurvey and other reference-checking solutions have turned the reference-checking process into a valuable component of the hiring process, one that can have a number of benefits for employers.

To learn just what those benefits are, I spoke with Ray Bixler, CEO and president of SkillSurvey. Here, I offer his take on the four reasons why every employer should always check every candidate’s references.

If you aren’t checking references diligently – or if you’re one of those laggards who is still calling up each individual reference and getting little to no information about your candidates – you’ll want to pay close attention to what Bixler has to say.

1. Candidates Are Better Than Ever at Being Interviewed

“There are all types of coaching opportunities that candidates can leverage these days,” Bixler says. “They can even go online and search for interview questions and how to best answer them.”

Bixler even points to this very site – in particular, an article on the 10 questions that job seekers should ask their potential employers.

“One of the questions was, ‘Who are the best candidates you’ve hired?’ That’s a great question to ask,” Bixler says. “And, as a candidate, once I get the answer, I’m going to align myself with what you said.”

Because today’s candidates are so good at playing the interview game, it’s important to get as much outside input on candidates as you possibly can. This is where references come in: Their third-party points of view will help you see who the candidate really is – rather than who the candidate wants you to think they are.

2. Hiring Managers Aren’t Always Great at Interviewing

SunAnd that’s not really their fault, Bixler says.

“Interviewing is a skill that needs to be continually used and refined, but the people who hire don’t hire every day,” Bixler explains. “Maybe they hire once a year or once a quarter.”

As a result, hiring managers often rely on abstract company guidelines and lists of questions handed down by HR – or worse, they go with their guts.

Couple the hiring managers’ understandably rusty interviewing skills with the candidates’ increased preparedness, and you can see that your organization may be in for trouble.

“You have to start inviting others to the party – and those others are references,” Bixler says. “You have to fold in other people’s perspectives to give your company a better understanding as to whether or not this applicant can really do the job they are applying for.”

3. Data Matters

Data-driven hiring is all the rage these days – for good reason – and references can offer employers some very valuable data. Through online reference-checking solutions, employers gain powerful insights into the kinds of candidates that make the best new hires.

“Our data indicates that the more references are willing to speak about an applicant, the more favorable their comments are, and the higher their ratings of an applicant, the more likely it is that applicant will perform better and stay on the job longer,” Bixler says.

4. Reference-Checking Technology Can Boost Your Employer Brand

According to Bixler, 25 percent of the references who use the SkillSurvey platform choose to opt in to a sourcing community for SkillSurvey’s clients.

That’s right: SkillSurvey has found a way to turn the references themselves into a talent pipeline.

“Doing reference checking with a high-tech, high-touch technology indicates to applicants and references that the company is willing to use new technologies to make the hiring process easier,” Bixler says. “If companies are doing that, it makes references and applicants think, ‘Hey, this company probably has some cool stuff going on internally, too!’”

TableclothThe candidate experience is critical these days, and using an online reference-checking software to make the process more convenient is a good way to get candidates more excited about your company.

Moreover, as mentioned above, this new hiring technology can even help you find new talent in the most unlikely of places.

After all: Has anyone ever heard of a reference opting in to a talent community after being called up by an employer to verify some dates? Probably not.

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