Ask most companies about their policies on job references, and chances are they have strict rules. They may confirm their former employees dates of employment and their job title and maybe whether theyre eligible for rehire. But not much more.
Saying bad things about ex-employees even if those things are true is one way of getting into expensive legal trouble. Consequently, many companies adopt the theory that if they cant say anything nice, theyre not going to say anything at all, for anyone.
Of course, that means those same companies cant get the same information themselves when they want to hire. So the whole experience is frustrating.
But one company thinks it might have gotten around the problem of reluctance by shifting the responsibility of collecting references to the applicants.
The companies that use SkillSurvey, an electronic reference assessment system, require their job applicants to ask their managers, former managers and co-workers to fill out an online evaluation form.
The typical applicant sends five to six requests, plus a personal note that explains that results will be aggregated and remain confidential, and that the candidate has signed a waiver promising not to sue.
This removes the company from the equation, says Ray Bixler, president and CEO of SkillSurvey. We call it the secret sauce, Bixler said.
People dont feel as if theyre breaking a rule against giving references because theyre not answering a recruiters questions. Instead, theyre doing a favor for someone they know.
And if they dont?
Job applicants are encouraged to remind their former and current colleagues to fill out the form when SkillSurvey doesnt receive enough responses. But ultimately, its their responsibility.
Recruiters have learned there is a reason there is a red flag there, Bixler said. SkillSurvey must have at least two responses to generate a report, but three are preferable, he says. A poor response causes many employers to go no further with the application.
The average response rate hovers between 85 and 89 percent, he said.
Bixler said SkillSurvey has been reviewed and approved by several in-house general counsels.