The Opportunity of Automating the Reference Checking Process

Reference checking is one of the most important HR processes. If references are not checked correctly, the ‘least bad’ outcome might be an embarrassment for your business and the new employee. The worst outcome is that, by hiring certain individuals to certain jobs, you may even be committing a felony.

Of course, in the vast majority of cases, reference checking is little more than a formality – confirming that a prospective employee is who they say they are. The process of reference checking typically takes one to five working days. However, there are cases when it can take considerably longer.

Delays mean it takes more time to get workers into a position, and if you desperately need resources for a specific project, hold-ups in the reference checking process can have consequences on the project’s progress. Companies often pay thousands of dollars for specialized software – or even hire external agencies – to carry out reference checks for them. However, there is a huge potential for automating this process at a fraction of the cost.

Let’s look at why reference checks become delayed, then look at why automation is a powerful option.

Common Reference Checking Processes

Depending on your industry, the reference checking process may be more or less complicated. Businesses that deal with more sensitive information, health care or children, in particular, will have much greater requirements for reference checking.

Common reference checks include:

  • Employment history
  • Education and professional qualifications
  • Criminal record
  • Identity and address
  • Business interest screening
  • Credit checks (in some states)
  • Politically Exposed Person checks

Depending on the kind of organization you are, the reference check will normally involve contacting one or more institutions for more information about the applicant. And, in the majority of businesses, the process is almost entirely manual:

  • An HR team member will liaise with the prospective employee for contact details over email or the telephone
  • That HR team member will then approach previous employers, as well as specific government agencies (when required) to provide information
  • Contacting these third parties normally happens over email
  • If there are delays at the third party’s end, the HR team needs to remember to chase them up

As we can see, there are several areas in reference checking where the process can break down or become delayed. From rewriting employment history emails time and again to searching for the contact address for the criminal records bureau (even if they have been contacted previously), to simply forgetting to chase up a delayed check, the whole process has multiple stages where it can break down.

Automation of the reference checking process would significantly cut the chance of employees forgetting to complete a reference check. It would also save time and tedium throughout the entire process by eliminating repetitive tasks.

Example of Automated Reference Checking

Let’s look at what automated reference checking would look like with the most common reference check: employment and education history.

Automating Employment and Education History Reference Checking

For most senior hires, reference checking should involve your HR leaders having a personal phone call with a line manager at the prospective employee’s previous jobs. However, in most cases, a standard approach to reference checking is preferable – and is totally automatable:

  • Your HR team sends an email that contains a form to the prospective employee asking them to enter the full names and contact details of previous employers, as well as an admin department or advisor at their college
  • This then triggers a workflow which auto-fills an email template. The email can be checked by your HR to ensure it reads well, but saves time composing it anew each time
  • The workflow is able to collect the referee’s names and contact details from the form that the prospective employee filled in, adding their name and email address into an email
  • The referees receive an email which requests they enter data into a form (again, within the email) – such as dates of employment, grades at college, as well as potential ‘survey’ questions on their satisfaction with the employee
  • If the referee is taking too long to reply, a reminder email can prompt them to fill in the information
  • The referee then completes the reference by simply clicking ‘send’

Automating this process massively cuts the time that HR teams need to spend composing emails, chasing people up and getting them to send information over. This leads to much faster completion times for referees, meaning they can get started working for you quicker.

Automate the Reference Checking Process

Reference checking is an essential part of due diligence when it comes to hiring staff. However, when the process is manual, there are multiple points where the process can break down and reference checking either becomes delayed or does not happen at all.

Automating the reference checking process offers you a powerful, efficient and extremely cost-effective way of gathering information about your prospective employees.


Ready to save yourself countless hours performing repetitive tasks when reference checking? Request a live demo of Nintex today.

Andrew Swanson

Andy is the VP of Enterprise Sales at Nintex. For the past decade he’s been providing cloud strategy and process automation tools to organizations around the globe. At Nintex, Andy works with customers, partners and employees to implement the tools and technology needed to drive success. He enjoys helping other organizations use Nintex to drive their digital transformation journey.

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