3 Reasons Why Traditional Reference Checking Is Dead

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When was the last time you were asked to hand over a list of references when applying for a new job? We’d bet that if you’ve been a job candidate in the last few years, you probably skipped that step. More and more often, companies are forgoing a traditional reference check in favor of scouring social media or using backchannel connections to learn more about a candidate.

One reason why companies are using less traditional means of reference checking? They already know what they’re going to hear when they speak to your contacts:

Generally, 75% of references offer positive feedback about a candidate, and the exercise can become very self-affirming. Of course the contacts provided by the candidate are going to say nice things; otherwise, why would you offer up those people as contacts?

Some recruiters have methods for avoiding this circular exercise. Marty Parker shares his tips in the Globe and Mail’s Leadership lab, outlining the depths and lengths recruiters should really go to to get a 360-degree view of you as an employee. Beyond checking the references provided by a candidate, Parker suggests recruiters leverage people you may know in common and develop a network that would allow them to check up on any interviewee who comes through the door. All that effort just to find out if you have a dark past? Yikes.

Overall, what this means for job candidates is that you now have less control over what employers are judging about you. We’ve covered the ways that recruiters use social media to check on a candidate, and we want you to be ready for whatever might come your way during the job hunt. We believe BULLIT is the best way for you to manage the reference process.

How does BULLIT help you overcome some of the problems with reference checking? Firstly, our reviews are anonymous, so whatever feedback you show automatically has greater value to a recruiter or new manager. We believe the anonymity allows a reviewer to be more honest, so instead of handing a list of vetted references to a new job, the recruiter can simply check your profile for a candid picture of what you’re like to work with.

Secondly, you’re eliminating the opportunity for the recruiter to do some backchannel reference checking — the time-consuming, invasive kind that Parker says is necessary for any new candidate to make the team. With BULLIT, you can choose to show or hide any feedback someone leaves on your profile. Of course, hidden reviews will be shown in a counter at the top of your profile, and any harassing or bullying reviews will be pulled down without question. But you now have insight and control over exactly what’s being said about you to a recruiter, an opportunity that traditional reference checking never afforded you.

And lastly, reference checking becomes a two way street. Just as your new team has a chance to check you out, you now have the power to respond in kind. See what your new boss is really good at, and discover where your skills align with those of your coworkers. You’ll have greater confidence walking to your new desk on day one when you know what the BULLIT community has to say.

Whether or not a company bothers to check your references, you deserve to know what’s being said about you. Sign up for BULLIT at beta.bullit.me to start using your references to your advantage, and get more out of your network today.