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Everybody wants to get new staff into work quickly, but we have recently noticed an increase in the amount of fraudulent
references, so we are going to share a few tricks of the trade with you to try to make sure
you don't get caught out.
When interviewing, confirm with the candidate who is the appropriate person for you to call
for a reference. Don't rely on details written on a CV or application form. Ask specifically
who they reported to for each of their previous positions, how long they reported to them
and if they are still in that position.
If you use an application form, insert a statement above where they sign. “I give
my permission for ????????? Ltd to contact all the above companies and individuals for the
purpose of confirming employment dates and/or providing a reference”.
Alternatively you could go through each previous employer noted on the application form
or CV, and ask the candidate about their job, what they did, how they enjoyed it and if they
had any problems or issues whilst they were there. You should be trying to dig up information
that you can ask further questions about, during the interview and the follow up reference
check. After you have gone through the employment history it is then an ideal time to produce
a “permission to contact all references form” and ask them to sign it. This can
result in some spectacular backtracking.
Always treat a reference you have requested more seriously than one an applicant brings
always make sure a reference received by letter is on company headed paper and is ideally
stamped with a company stamp,
always check that a reference received by email has been sent from a company email address.
Not a free email service like Hotmail, Gmail or Yahoo,
telephone numbers should be from landlines.
It is now very easy for a candidate to print out a document that looks genuine, so look
closely and ask yourself the following questions.
Has the actual headed paper been printed by a printing firm or on an inkjet or laser
printer (Headed paper printed in bulk by a printing firm will be sharper and any
patterns or logos can be printed right up to the edge of the paper. Inkjet or laser
printers need to leave a border around the page).
Look at the typed writing, has it been produced by an inkjet or laser printer? Most offices
have laser printers. A laser printer is usually sharper than an inkjet.
Stop! Don't call the referee yet!
Don't take the information you have been given for granted.
Validate! Validate! Validate!
Remember that anybody can throw together a website very easily so ensure you are using the
official website. Search Google for the company. Is the website Google provides the same
as the one you have been given? Are the address and telephone numbers the same?
Phone the reception of an organisation to confirm the name and title of the referee and
also confirm the number you have been given to contact them is the correct one.
When, you call them:
Ensure that you identify the person you are talking to,
only conduct a reference check on a mobile number if it has been confirmed by, or given
to you, by the company's reception,
confirm the dates of employment but be sure not to repeat the ones you have been given
by the candidate. Get the referee to state them,
be polite but ask questions and then follow up with probes for specifics,
try “Is there anything I haven't asked you that I should know?”,
if you get a poor comment, you need to probe for evidence just like you probe the candidate
listen to the non-verbal's: the hesitancy, the qualifiers (“well I would if....”)
and the lack of or abundance of enthusiasm.
If you have received a written reference always ring them and confirm verbally that the
reference has actually come from them and check with the company that the person who has
given the reference is authorised to do so.
Remember not all referees are fair or balanced and some companies print their headed paper as they go, using inkjet printers.
You will have to look at the whole picture. Treat anything that is unusual as suspicious
and investigate but keep an open mind to the possibility that that dodgy looking website
If the position requires a
DBS check (formerly CRB) you can use our
DBS Checking service. To register with the Aaron's Department online DBS service click here: