It takes a lot of vision and hard work to create the iconic, golden fields stretching across the American landscape. It also takes financing, leasing and other services to help American farmers produce such bounty, needs that are provided for in large part by CoBank, a cooperatively owned bank and member of the Farm Credit System.
Based in Denver, CoBank is one of the largest private providers of credit to the U.S. rural economy, supporting agriculture, rural infrastructure and rural communities in all 50 states. To help meet its goal of hiring only the best and brightest associates so it can continue to deliver its essential services to its customer-owners, CoBank has been using SkillSurvey Reference®, the digital reference-checking solution, since 2012.
Building a Team with Diverse Backgrounds and Skills
Because CoBank has a culture of cooperative ownership, the bank places great importance on delivering excellent customer service. To identify candidates who can deliver this level of service, CoBank’s team of recruiters seek references’ honest assessments of candidates’ soft skills, says Amy Brown, MS, PHR, senior corporate recruiter at CoBank. She, along with a team of three other recruiters, focuses on finding candidates for CoBank departments – IT, Legal and Corporate Communications, Operations, Credit, Finance, Relationship Management, and others. “To be successful at CoBank, you must have a sense of urgency, you must be a team player, you must be able to serve a mission greater than yourself,” adds Brown. “These are some of the soft skills that we seek.”
“I think it is incredible the way the system is set up, and how it’s confidential so people are able to be open and honest with their feedback about the candidate,”Amy Brown, MS, PHR
A Better Way to Handle References
CoBank requires three completed references from each candidate before a job offer is made, and when Brown joined CoBank, it was just beginning to use SkillSurvey Reference. She was amazed at how easy it was to get completed, speedy feedback from candidates’ references. “I think it is incredible the way the system is set up, and how it’s confidential so people are able to be open and honest with their feedback about the candidate,” says Brown.
Before joining CoBank, Brown relied on the phone to contact references. “It takes so much time and effort to call references only to find that they aren’t as transparent with us on the phone as they could be,” she says. Now, CoBank relies on job-specific surveys for more timely and objective feedback. “We gain so much more by getting their comments and their ratings through the survey than what we could get from them on the phone.”
Reaping the Benefits of Automated Reference Checking
Implementing SkillSurvey Reference has transformed CoBank’s reference checking processes. Today, the team relies on high quality feedback about candidates to provide more details to hiring managers so they can make better hiring decisions. It has also freed recruiters from hours on the phone so that they can spend their time more effectively with both candidates and hiring managers—for which they receive high marks. Brown estimates that CoBank recruiters have saved more than 1,000 hours since it implemented the SkillSurvey process.
With its focus on delivering superior customer service, a better candidate experience is also important to CoBank. It takes candidates no more than 10 minutes to enter their reference information through the SkillSurvey portal. “I used SkillSurvey Reference when hired here at CoBank, and my user experience was smooth and straightforward,” Brown says. “My references thought it was simple to navigate as well. Plus, they didn’t have to plan for a scheduled call. Other references have also said that the questions we ask are relevant, and can be answered with ease.”
About 93 percent of references contacted by CoBank respond – 65 percent in one day or less.
recruiter hours saved
reference response rate
references respond in a day or less
“We gain so much more by getting their comments and their ratings through the survey than what we could get from them on the phone.”Amy Brown, MS, PHR
People put their trust in financial institutions, so the employees who work for them must have high integrity and strong ethics. In addition to asking references about a candidate’s personal values, SkillSurvey Reference can help identify if a candidate is not being completely honest about their references, which could be indicative of future dishonesty. “In one instance, the Candidate Feedback Report identified that the candidate may have created fictional references who responded to his SkillSurvey,” says Brown, adding, “We investigated and confirmed that this was the case. SkillSurvey Reference’s ability to spotlight such fraudulent behavior is a great safety feature. It allowed us to make an informed decision to not move forward with that applicant.”
“SkillSurvey can offer another data point when hiring. The comments that references make tend to give us a more in-depth view into the candidate – we understand more how they work with others, including their supervisors,”Amy Brown, MS, PHR
Making Better Hiring Decisions
When hiring new associates, one of CoBank’s top aims is to build a diverse team. “SkillSurvey can offer another data point when hiring. The comments that references make tend to give us a more in-depth view into the candidate – we understand more how they work with others, including their supervisors,” says Brown.
But the greatest asset to CoBank’s goal to hire only the best and brightest employees is the information delivered in SkillSurvey Reference reports. “There’s a lot of information you can gather from a report, and when you share that with the hiring managers, they understand from the beginning the caliber of employee we’re hiring,” says Brown.