Reference check hell

If an employer asks for super speedy service, should we shortcut the reference check? A reader with a dozen retained openings for a major company learned the hard way. HR had been totally unable to come up with the goods, so the firm’s Exec. VP signed a deal with our correspondent. Almost half dozen of these critical openings have been filled. Then came a candidate who looked great. The initial interviews with the client went so well that they wanted to extend an offer on the spot. But even though HR was out of the recruiting loop, they were in charge of the paperwork duties . . . and that included reference checking. Turns out the candidate (who still held a great job with a great company elsewhere) did not have the degree claimed (in fact, the university has never heard of him) and a criminal check turned up two serious allegations against him.The HR guy was ecstatic. Having been locked out of the process except for the grunt work, he gleefully figured this was the nail in our reader’s coffin and did everything he could to get the remaining searches cancelled.Our reader tells us that the client’s desperation to fill these openings led him to believe that the most important thing was to supply them with super quick response.Luckily, the EVP understood that this was an isolated incident and has agreed to continue the search efforts. But from now on, they’ll probably always have a doubt in their minds as to the veracity of the candidates.Speed or no, the basic references of all finalists should be checked before they are presented to the client, especially in a multiple hire retained situation.

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Paul Hawkinson is the editor of The Fordyce Letter, a publication for third-party recruiters that's part of ERE Media. He entered the personnel consulting industry in the late 1950's and began publishing for the industry in the 1970's. During his tenure as a practitioner, he personally billed over $5 million in both contingency and retainer assignments. He formed the Kimberly Organization and purchased The Fordyce Letter in 1980.

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