Editor’s Note: This post is by Paul Slezak, Cofounder and CEO of RecruitLoop – the World’s largest marketplace of expert Recruiters and Sourcers available on-demand.
“Deep reference checks”, “informal checks”, or “background checks” tend to generate a bit of controversy on the recruitment scene, but are still widely used, particularly for higher executive roles.
A backdoor reference check refers to obtaining information about a candidate from a source other than those referees specifically listed on the candidate’s resumé. It used to be that reference checks were the only way of determining a future employee’s personality and past experience levels based on conversations with previous supervisors.
With the advent of social media and web footprints, it’s now easier than ever to get an idea of the real candidate behind their CV.
Why would you want to conduct a backdoor reference check?
Backdoor reference checks are particularly useful to assess two things: a candidate’s personal traits and their past performance.
Are they really as good as they make out or are they just good at interviewing?
It’s crucial that a hiring manager can get to the bottom of someone’s background and work performance before bringing them on board. You don’t have to search very far to come across a story where it has become apparent that a new employee has only known half of what they said they did.
But are they illegal?
It is not illegal to get an opinion from someone connected to a candidate, however there are particular practices to avoid. If you’re a recruiter, you will probably have a legal responsibility to your clients that are best met by ensuring you conduct (typically two) thorough reference checks. Placing someone in a position without confirming his or her previous work history could get you in trouble for negligence, misrepresentation, or even conspiracy of fraud.
Let’s just say it’s not pleasant when a client calls you and says, “We’ve just had to let Stanley go today. By the way did you know he was let go from his last role for embezzlement?”
There are many ways you can go about finding out more about your candidate than by simply speaking to the referees listed on their resumé. Here are our favourites:
The easiest way to begin is with a LinkedIn search and seeing what connections you might have in common with the candidate.
Depending on your level of connection, these are the first points of call to discover more about a particular candidate. It’s possible the people they know on LinkedIn may never have worked with them so don’t just immediately call your common connection and ask for information. Rather, check their background and look for people who might have deeper professional / career related information.
Many people now have recommendations or endorsements on their LinkedIn profiles. Even if you don’t have any personal connection with them, it’s not unusual to attempt to contact these people for a phone conversation. If they’ve already agreed to write a recommendation once, they’re unlikely to find it unusual for someone to call looking for verbal confirmation.
In fact by providing a testimonial for anybody on LinkedIn you’re basically putting yourself out there to be contacted as part of the reference checking process. It’s unlikely someone will give an all out bad reference, so if you get an opportunity to hear their voice you can better ascertain their enthusiasm for recommending that person.
We’ve talked about the power of social media in getting a better understanding of a potential employee previously.
Rather than looking for information on a person, this time you’re looking for people they are connected to. For example do they have a lot of conversation back and forth with someone on Twitter? Are they connected to someone you know on Facebook? Are they a regular follower or commentator on someone’s blog?
Many people have a personal blog or online community they are a part of. These sites can give you a host of information on the person as well as providing potential points of connection. If they’re active in a community, contact the founder of the community or group to confirm their involvement.
Alumni groups are an excellent source of secondary information about an individual. A person’s reputation within their college, especially if they graduated recently, will say a lot about them as an individual. Look for alumni they may have worked on projects with or are still in contact with. You can get information about alumni groups from LinkedIn, University websites, or Facebook.
Particularly if you operate in a specialised field in a particular location, there’s often only 2 or 3 degrees of separation between you and anybody with a worthwhile opinion. Setting up a coffee is the best way to get in-depth information on someone. Face-to-face allows you to read body language and initial reactions, which can tell you a lot about a candidates’ true experience with that person.
When calling the referees provided by the candidate, don’t forget to ask, ‘Who else worked with
Here are a few other pro-tips for conducting backdoor reference checks:
What methods have you used to get the ‘real story’ behind a potential candidate? Any favourites? We’d love to hear them!
Best Companies To Work For