That is the question…

The process of hiring new employees can be a complex and time-consuming task to say the least. One of the most important aspects of this process is checking references, or so we always believed, but is this still a valuable tool?

Typically references are done to verify a candidate’s work history, skills, and job performance, and to obtain additional information that may not be included in the candidate’s resume or cover letter. However, with the increasing concern for privacy rights, some employers are wondering whether there is any point in doing references anymore, particularly in Canada where privacy laws are strict. Most large organizations will only verify employment dates, if your lucky and likely will not provide any more than that.

Canadian Privacy Laws

In Canada, privacy rights are protected by the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), which regulates how organizations collect, use, and disclose personal information. This includes information about an individual’s work history, qualifications, and performance. As a result, many employers are concerned that they may be violating privacy laws by checking references and collecting this type of information.

However, it is important to note that while privacy laws in Canada are strict, they are not absolute. PIPEDA allows organizations to collect, use, and disclose personal information for legitimate business purposes, as long as the individual has given their consent. This means that employers can still check references as long as they obtain the candidate’s consent to do so and use the information for legitimate business purposes such as evaluating the candidate’s suitability for the job.

What other tools can you use to verify a candidates ?

It is also important to note that references are not the only source of information available to employers when making hiring decisions. There are a number of other ways to assess a candidate’s qualifications and work history, including conducting background checks, asking for samples of previous work, and reviewing the candidate’s social media presence. In some cases, these alternative methods may even provide more relevant information than references, particularly if the references are not recent or if the candidate has not worked with the references for an extended period of time.

Additionally, while privacy laws in Canada may limit the types of information that employers can obtain through references, they do not prohibit employers from checking references altogether. Employers are still free to ask for references, and many candidates will be willing to provide them, especially if they believe it will help their chances of getting the job. Moreover, if an employer believes that a candidate’s work history or qualifications are not accurately reflected in their resume or cover letter, they may still request references to obtain additional information.

However, it is important to remember that checking references can also carry some risks for employers. For example, if an employer relies on incorrect information provided by a reference, they may make a hiring decision that is not in their best interests. This could result in a costly and time-consuming process of having to terminate the employee and find a replacement. Additionally, if an employer provides a negative reference to another organization without the candidate’s consent, they may be liable for damages if the candidate can prove that the reference was inaccurate or made with malicious intent.

So, do you reference or not?

References should not make or break a potential hiring decision. They should be taken for what they are, another “gut check” on your instincts as a hiring manager, assuming you have followed your recruiting process to get you to the point of making the final decision.