Almost Half of HR Professionals Looking Harder at Employee References

February 3, 2005 ( - Almost 40% of HR professionals have increased the amount of time spent reference checking for potential employees over the past three years.

According to the 2005 Reference Checking Survey from the Society for Human Resource Management (SRHM), 96% of organizations conduct some kind of background or reference check for potential employees, with 52% reporting that they outsource at least part of the process. The trend of looking more seriously at references is growing, with almost half stating that they have been looking harder in the past three years.

HR professionals also think that they are effective in identifying poor performers. Seventy-three percent feel that their vetting process weeds out the wheat from the chaff, according to the survey.

When checking for inconsistencies, HR professionals report that they find them in areas such as certifications, work eligibility, degrees conferred, schools attended and malpractice or professional disciplinary action The most common, found by about half of all respondents, are inconsistencies in previous employment, criminal records, former job titles, and past salaries.

“Being able to identify unqualified candidates during the recruiting process saves organizations time and money,” said Susan Meisinger, SPHR, president and CEO of SHRM, in a news release. “Employees provide the competitive edge for a successful business, making it critically important for organizations to be able to recruit the right people. With new technologies, reference and background checking has become easier to conduct and increasingly more important to organizations who want to get a complete picture of the job candidates they consider hiring.”

Because of a lack of protections for HR professionals from legal liability when providing references, 54% of organizations do not provide references. Seventy-five percent believe they would if such a law was in place.

The SHRM survey was based on responses from 345 members.