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Are Reference Checks a Waste of Time?

Probably not for the nearly 30 percent of employers who’ve caught fake references on a job application.

…or for the 69 percent of employers who say they’ve changed their mind about a candidate after speaking with a reference.

These findings come from a new CareerBuilder survey of 2,494 hiring managers and human resource professionals nationwide.

Of the survey participants, 62 percent said that when they contacted a reference listed on an application, the reference didn’t have good things to say about the candidate. Twenty-nine percent of employers reported that they have caught a fake reference on a candidate’s application.

While the majority of employers (80 percent) say they do contact references when evaluating potential employees, that still leaves a significant number of employers who don’t perform reference checks, which seems like a risk, given these findings.

Last year, I discussed the importance of reference checks with’s Jay Goltz, wherein the small business expert and author called reference checking “one of most important things you can do as part of the hiring process” and said neglecting to check references is “like playing with fire.” He also offered the following advice for checking references:

When checking for references, listen to red flags: Great candidates’ references are often forthcoming with information and compliments; not-so-great candidates, however, have references who are less willing to talk (whether because they don’t want to be unkind or perhaps fear legal ramifications, etc.).  Whatever you do, however, do NOT skip this step, Goltz says. “Trust me, it’s better to make 20 reference calls to guarantee right employee than deal with nightmare of dealing with a bad employee.”

Are you among the 20 percent of employers who do not check references for job candidates? Care to enlighten us as to why?

Mary Lorenz

About Mary Lorenz

Mary is a copywriter for CareerBuilder, specializing in B2B marketing and corporate recruiting best practices and social media. In addition to creating copy for corporate advertising and marketing campaigns, she researches and writes about employee attraction, engagement and retention. Whenever possible, she makes references to pop culture. Sometimes, those references are even relevant. A New Orleans native, Mary now lives in Chicago, right down the street from the best sushi place in the city. It's awesome.


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