Leadership & Productivity

“Subject to suitable references” – How referencing fits into employee onboarding

6 min read

21 November 2017

Former special projects journalist

At what stage of the recruitment process should an employer be asking for references?

There’s a lot that can happen in the time between a company making an offer to a candidate and a new employee starting a role. During the onboarding period, your business may ask for and follow up on employee references. So where exactly does referencing fit into the employee onboarding process and how do you ensure that your organisation manages this task effectively?

When to ask for references?

During the early stages of employee onboarding, when an offer has been made, there is usually a great deal of information and paperwork being exchanged between a company and their potential employee. This could include offer letter, contracts and may include requesting and following up on suitable references.

Melanie Guy, Head of HR for webexpenses explains: “When it comes to referencing, it does depend on the country and the nature of the job. Typically though, upon verbal offer of employment, you ask the successful candidate for their referee details. It would be unusual to take up references before a role was offered as that would alert the existing employer that the individual was actively looking for a new job.”

In the UK, there is no legal requirement for employers to check an employee’s references, or for an employer to provide them. But where employers do provide references, ACAS advise that these should be fair and accurate.

Businesses can offer roles “subject to suitable references” and can end an employee’s contract if references are not suitable. When employees move from one firm to another, most organisations will provide factual references only so they cannot be accused of being unfair.

In the USA, more detailed background checks are commonly completed through an I9 form. This provides details of an employee’s eligibility for work as well as verifying their past employment, credit and criminal history.

In Australia, generally the recruitment agency is responsible for requesting and taking up references on behalf of the employer.

Delays in referencing can hold up onboarding

According to research by webonboarding, 69 per cent of HR decision makers said they had to spend time chasing up successful candidates to return completed or missing documents during the onboarding process.

Onboardees can often forget to provide contact details for referees, and it can take time for reference requests to be processed and actioned, leading to potential delays in the onboarding process.

How to speed up referencing

Just like all the other requirements of employee onboarding, managing references efficiently and effectively can speed up the process of getting new employees onboard into your business.

Applying technology can make it easier for potential new employees to provide reference details so that, rather than filling in forms and risking postal delays in returning them, they can add contact information for their referees online in an instant. An online system also makes the process faster, easier and more convenient for referees, who are able to provide their feedback at a time that suits them, rather than having to take a call in the middle of their working day.

Xref provides a secure and reliable solution for businesses wanting to collect and action reference requests from candidates quickly and easily. Using an automated, online platform that allows candidates to provide reference details and for their referees to provide feedback at their own convenience. Employers using the system can typically expect to gather 60 per cent more data than they would using traditional methods, and get referee feedback within 24-32 hours.

“”Xref has made referencing simple. We are now able to take the otherwise tiresome burden of reference checking off the hands of our hiring managers, allowing them to focus on more strategic recruitment tasks. It ensures that we do our due diligence to find the right people for our very human-centric approach, with speed and confidence,” said Deborah Tobin-Byrne, Operations Director, iZen.

Webonboarding for the whole employee onboarding process

There are many elements that make up the employee onboarding process, referencing being one of them. By using tools such as webonboarding to manage the whole process you can ensure that you have a streamlined and efficient process from preferred candidate to employee.

Webonboarding is a cloud-based solution that helps businesses manage the manual employee onboarding process. Find out more here.

This article is part of a wider campaign called the Scale-up Hub, a section of Real Business that provides essential advice and inspiration on taking your business to the next level. It’s produced in association with webexpenses and webonboarding, a fast-growing global organisation that provides cloud-based software services that automate expenses management and streamline the employee onboarding process.