Dynamic Business Logo
Home Button
Bookmark Button
Reference circled in a dictionary

How to spot fake employee references

The reference-check is often the final hurdle in a candidate securing a job and has long been a trusted process, but a recent study has found an alarming amount of references provided are actually fabricated.

A study by Balance Recruitment suggests businesses should not take a candidates referee’s at face value. The study of nearly 1000 workers in the IT and finance sectors discovered 39 percent of referees were personal friends and while candidates may think they’re fooling their potential employer, this may not be the case.

“We occasionally get references that are overly positive and you can tell at that point that the candidate we are reference-checking is usually friends with that individual. It certainly calls into question the value of that reference,” Balance Recruitment joint managing director Simon Hogg told Dynamic Business.

In addition to the prevalence of overly-positive reference, 4 percent admitted to providing a fake referee, something that’s becoming increasingly difficult to spot as sophisticated businesses now exist with the sole purpose of providing candidates with believable references.

“People can go to websites where they pay some money and are set up with a case manager who has experience in the field of the candidate. They will create a company and the candidates case manager will speak with some authority in relation to how they performed in their fictitious role,” Hogg said.

The sophistication is such that there’s no guaranteed method of identifying false referees anymore, but Balance Recruitment’s solution is to suggest candidates allow their potential employer to select who they’ll approach for a reference.

Other tips to investigate a referee’s authenticity include checking a business’s social media accounts to see if the referee is listed or the potential employer could phone the switchboard of the referee’s company to get in touch with them rather than via the provided number.

Alarmingly, the study also discovered 13 percent of referees were happy to provide positive feedback about a person who had been incompetent at their job. Reasons for this ranged from wanting to get rid of the candidate from their own business, as well as concerns about ramifications of telling the truth and not wanting to ruin a candidates career.

“If you don’t want to provide accurate information, say that you would prefer not to do the reference. There is no onus on you to provide damaging information about a candidate. Be honest; if you have concerns about a candidates performance and don’t wish to voice them then say so,” Hogg added.

With businesses becoming wise to candidates ploys, it appears honesty is the best policy for both candidates and businesses.