“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The platitude, passed down to us from Benjamin Franklin, applies beautifully to the disastrous consequences of hiring a new job candidate without thoroughly checking their references and background.

After all, a hiring mistake is costly. Consider the damage done to the rest of your workforce—it affects employees’ morale. Some may quit to escape the sheer misery of working with a bad hire. Still more fallout: Workers required to pick up the slack from an unproductive hire may lose their productive edge (A recent Undercover Recruiter blog said that hiring the wrong person can cause a 36% drop in productivity).

Getting it Right … The First Time

When it comes to candidate screening tools, speed, reliability and insights are the critical components to look for, and this online screening comparison tool breaks each down for you.

There’s just so much you can tell about a job candidate from an interview. With so much at stake, why settle for that? Often you don’t find out critical information on a candidate until the interview, which means hiring teams have wasted valuable time only to have to start the process all over again. Maybe you’re doing background screening – which enables you to confirm employment, education, criminal record and license record checks. That’s better, but if you relied only on that, much of this information doesn’t predict a candidate’s future performance.

Verifying past employment, credentials (e.g. with physicians) and membership checks is also a good preventative measure. Yet these checks only tell you where they worked, not how they performed. You can make assumptions that a candidate’s length of time in a position or track record of promotions means he or she was successful in the job, but it’s still a guessing game.

Candidate Self-Assessments. Self-led personality and cognitive ability tests show you how a candidate might perform. Keep in mind that not all assessments are created equal, and it’s critical to ensure that the assessments being used are assessing job-related skills. Some pitfalls include that your candidate may be giving you the answers they think you want versus their honest feedback. Plus, you never know if they’re getting help. Another issue: Many of these tests have been found to show bias, which may undercut your diversity goals.

Hard Skills assessments can help you hire the best mathematician, software engineer or writer among your candidate pool. However, they won’t tell you about their soft skills (how well they’d do managing projects, motivating direct reports or how good they are at resolving conflicts). And again, you need to make sure the tests relate directly to the job a candidate’s applying for.

It’s best to get insights from a candidate’s references. It’s the only assessment that provides feedback from someone other than the candidate, and many hiring professionals conduct reference checks via phone. However, some people find it difficult to give candid or critical comments in spoken feedback. And sometimes responses can be misinterpreted. For example, the reference may be caught up reading in emails, but the recruiter hears an awkward pause and assumes the reference is withholding negative information.

Leverage the Best Solutions Together

Each screening tool provides a different chapter in the candidate’s story. The most powerful action you can take to minimize your risk of hiring the wrong candidate comes from learning about an employee’s past performance from those who have worked with and managed the candidate.

With online reference checking, there’s no need for references to feel awkward making candid comments on the phone or fear legal restrictions. It’s all done online, with a waiver, and with a confidential process you’re more likely to get unbiased feedback … the plain truth. In addition, structured job-specific surveys on candidates’ soft skills ask references to assess how well the candidate performed against all the dimensions of performing a job. Best of all, you can compare information across candidates and use that information in the next stage of interviewing your candidate.

Don’t leave yourself exposed to the fallout from hiring the wrong candidate. Explore how you can use the latest technology to get the information you need to make the right hiring decision. Check out our new hiring screening tool, where you can compare the effectiveness of screening methods: http://www.skillsurvey.com/resource/reference-checking-comparison-tool/

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