Performance Pointer
From the Penumbra Group; your complete resource for training and development solutions.
April 2007 - Tip #25
In This Issue:

The Truth About Lies
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According to a survey by the Society of Human Resource Managers (SHRM), over 53% of all job applicants lie on their resumes and more than 70% of all college students said they would lie to get a job. In this month's Performance Pointer we'll discuss the truth about lies in the hiring process and how effective reference checking helps separate fact from fraud.

It's no surprise that exaggeration, storytelling, and outright deceit are commonplace in the interviewing process. A study published in the Journal of Basic and Applied Social Psychology found that 60 percent of people lied at least once during a 10-minute conversation and told an average of two to three lies.

This truth about lies probably doesn't come as a shock. What does come as a surprise is the number of organizations who acknowledge the importance of checking references but feel they've gotten no real value from it so they don't do it at all. The most common reasons companies bypass this important step are a lack of time, belief that the references were coached, fear of bad news, or perceived liability due to defamation of character claims.

Despite the fact that in reality only a small number of defamation suits are brought against employers each year (fewer still are successful), this "don't ask - don't tell" mentality has become a sad reality in US businesses today.

In fact, most hiring managers would be surprised to know that each year there are twice as many legal actions brought against employers for negligent hiring because an employer has neglected to perform due diligence in researching someone's references to assess if they are a risk to the work environment.

Sadly, employers have lost 72% of these negligent hiring cases with an average settlement of more than $1.6 million, according to AAA Interactive Search Technologies. A clear statement the courts believe the majority of cases were preventable with the proper screening procedures in place.

Aside from the serious legal implications of not checking references, consider the other costs of an incomplete selection process. According to Leadership IQ, 46% of all new US hires fail in the first 18 months on the job--- because of bad hiring decisions.

Fact is, reference checking is interviewing. It is not a task but rather a learned skill that requires focus, practice, and a few good insider how-to's. Let's review some best practice tips for effective reference checking:
  • Always check education references. They are easy to check now that most everything is automated or online. It is also one of the most common subjects candidates lie about.
  • Request that you are given a reference of a former supervisor (and/or co-worker) who no longer works with the company.
  • Ask for a reference from a reference. Let the reference know that you are very interested in learning more about the candidate and ask them if they know of anyone else whom you could speak to. By getting in touch with a reference that hasn’t been hand picked or coached by the candidate directly, you might be surprised at the candid details you can unearth.
  • Place the burden on the candidate. Make the candidate responsible for getting people to call you back. If they want the job bad enough and have nothing to hide, they will be motivated to find a way to get you in touch with their references or them in touch with you.
  • Use the Behavior Based Interviewing technique when you check references. Keep in mind, checking references is a form of interviewing. Probe for specific details regarding past behavior and events. For example, if you ask the reference about the candidate's 3 greatest strengths/weaknesses follow that up by asking them to recall a time when they demonstrated each of those behaviors.
  • Always prepare a list of questions in advance by reviewing your interview notes and choosing situations and information you want to verify or want another perspective on. Use these targeted questions to help confirm or deny exactly what the person told you in the interview.
  • Use probing questions to dig for details. For example, if the candidate describes an important accomplishment or project, probe for specifics to get the whole picture. What was the scope of the project? What was the candidate's role? Who else was involved? What was the outcome? What specific impact did this candidate have on the project results? You get the idea.
  • Consider using the services of a reference checking company. Digging deep is their specialty.

Effective reference checking doesn't just uncover the truth about lies or protect your team from danger, it also helps you learn more about someone's talents, training needs, goals, and personality to help you know how to grow and motivate them once they're on board.

Is your candidate a diamond or a CZ? Time to find out.

Find Out How to Bring Penumbra's Smart Hiring Program to Your Company

Sincerely, Jennifer Shirkani and Faith Csikesz

Penumbra Group Inc.

phone: Toll Free 877-388-6764
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