Should You Autocheck References?

Almost no HR professional one likes the task of checking the references that a candidate submits.  Today, however, it pays for an organization to check to see if a work history as it was presented on an application or resume is what’s been submitted.

In a recent article on the website,  since last year employers have expressed their concerns over conducting reference checks. The article’s author, Tess Taylor, outlines a few things to keep in mind regarding checking a candidate’s work references.

  • In a survey that was conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, 8 out of 10 HR professionals regularly check the references a candidate submits. This is more likely in positions that are advanced or have a high degree of skill that is required.
  • For workers who are considered “unskilled” labor or for seasonal or part time positions, checking references, if done at all, are incomplete or hastily if they are done at all.

Automation to Check References

Reference checking, like many other aspects of HR tasks, are now able to be conducted using apps or software that can do the task quickly. This option is popular for those organizations that have it available; however, not every company has adopted such applications.

Even though the completion rates of reference checks using emailed questions are approximately 82% for automated reference checks, compared to approximately 30% phone reference checks, the system isn’t perfect.

According to Greg Moran, President and CEO of Outmatch, a company specializing in checking references, automated reference checking cannot fully replace traditional reference checking done by humans.

“Because there is no incentive to say anything negative or positive about a candidate, the reference has to be truthful when supplying information,” he said. “There’s no right or wrong answers. It’s limited to questions about candidate traits and qualities that relate to the job itself.”


When checking references, hiring managers and HR professionals must be in compliance with all applicable laws. Depending on the state, checking references can require consent from the candidate. This is especially true, according to employment law attorney Donna Ballman, P.A., if such checks include credit references.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act, says Ballman, has mandates that must be particularly adhered to. “This federal law covers anything the employer is getting from a consumer reporting agency that covers personal and credit characteristics, character, general reputation, or lifestyle. “

Ballman also warns about the potential risks involved in using an automated reference checking system. “If the former employer allows someone with improper training to answer a list of questions, that person could disclose a disability, pregnancy, race, national origin or other protected status. And then what does the potential employer do with that information?” she explained. “As an example, if they find out the applicant has a disability and then don’t hire that person, they have opened up a potential lawsuit for discrimination.”

The key is to make sure that there are safety features or contingencies within an automated system that would prevent this from happening. The use of technology through apps can provide HR professionals and business owners valuable tools to make their organizations run more smoothly than they have in the past. At NetPEO, we are a network of companies we can help you find the right fit for the positions you need to fill as well as work with you to help manage your workers, their benefits and ways that work gets done.

Contact us today to discuss your company’s current needs and goals. We are here to all of your questions and outline how we can help. Call to schedule a free assessment today and get guaranteed results. In the end, each organization has to decided what answer is best when checking a candidate’s references. Working with a PEO can help ensure that issues of compliance are followed and risk is minimized. Contact us today to discuss your company’s current needs and goals. We are here to all of your questions and outline how we can help. Call to schedule a free assessment today with guaranteed results.