Technology is Turning Reference Checks Into Assessments

Feb 6, 2017

One of the biggest challenges of recruiting is quality of information. We all know that resumes tell us relatively little and doing structured interviews is expensive. As I discussed in “Using References as a Screening Tool,” technology has given the old sport of reference checking a new life.

Ray Bixler, CEO of SkillSurvey, thinks we can take reference checking even further, he says we can take it down the path towards scientific assessments.

Traditional reference checks are largely fact checking: Did they do the work they said they did? Are they a jerk? There is no reason you couldn’t send a survey that asks the same sort of questions you’d put in a psychometric assessment test. There’s every reason to believe that reports from managers, co-workers, staff and customers will provide better information than a questionnaire filled in by the person themselves.

This is not just speculation, Bixler’s SkillSurvey has done millions of reference checks and had I/O psychologists run the data just as they would with any psychometric assessment:  The psychologists build assessment models for specific job families and validate the model against new hires’ performance. This turns a reference checking exercise into a properly predictive assessment tool.

What is interesting?

  • A few people do try to fake the results, but you can usually detect this by checking email addresses and IP addresses.
  • 85% of people asked to complete the reference assessment do so within 2 days.
  • The results are rarely used to completely rule out a candidate; but it does provide insight into strengths and weaknesses.
  • The people asked to give references may turn out to be good candidates themselves.

What is really important?

  • Technology continues to offer better ways to gather and analyze information that can lead to more effective recruiting.
  • Recruiting departments need a certain “R&D” budget to investigate the constant waves of new technologies lest they fall behind in this constant war for the best tools.

Note to my readers: I’m always interested in innovative firms that signal where HR is heading. I love these firms that are striving to make a difference, but many are startups and a mention does not necessarily mean they’ll be right for you.

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