Automating Reference Checking Helps HR Save Time and Improve the Hiring Process

When organizations hire a new employee, they need as many data points as possible. It’s costly to hire candidates who aren’t good performers or won’t fit well with the culture. But how can you find this information? Reference checking was meant to do this but it has become a process of unproductive phone calls limited to position titles and dates of employment.

Insights from your candidates’ references are crucial to making good hires. The key to getting access to those insights is replacing traditional reference checking practices with structured reference checking. To hire the best you need to use science to identify candidates with the highest likelihood of success.

Hospitals are now turning to HealthcareSource Reference AssessmentSM, a scientifically-proven automated reference checking solution that transforms the hiring process. By implementing Reference Assessment, HR gains better insights and can make better hiring decisions.

Wilson Memorial Hospital

Like many healthcare organizations, Wilson Memorial Hospital’s Human Resources department is stretched thin. Complying with government regulations and administrative requirements seems to take more time than ever, which means there are fewer hours in the day to focus on mission-critical tasks like hiring and employee performance. The limited amount of time that the HR team has for finding new talent has to be used as efficiently as possible.

One aspect of the hiring process that seemed particularly inefficient was gathering references for promising candidates. John Eve, Vice President of Human Resources, found that it was hard to contact references by phone. Endless rounds of phone tag meant that reference checks could drag on for as long as a week or more. In addition, the information that people shared by phone was often not very useful. Eve observed, “When you do reference assessments by phone, you hope to get information about the candidate’s reliability and performance, as well as whether they will fit with your organizational culture. But, your call may catch people off guard. They may have a limited time to talk or HR requirements may restrict them to providing only the position title, dates of employment, and how much the individual was paid.”

To address these challenges, Wilson Memorial Hospital decided to investigate online reference checking software. The HR department wanted an easy-to-use solution that would streamline the reference process and offer good value for the money. The hospital’s Prudent Buyer Policy required the team to evaluate at least two vendors and select the one with the best price. Wilson Memorial Hospital evaluated HealthcareSource Reference Assessment and one other product. Eve commented, “We selected HealthcareSource due to their honest, straightforward sales approach. In addition to price, we liked that the company is a one-stop shop for recruitment solutions. If we purchase additional HealthcareSource products, our training costs will be considerably lower." 

The implementation process was smooth. Eve participated in one hour of training and then used the product personally for a position he was hiring for. His advice to other healthcare organizations: “Try it. It is much easier to use than you might think. Once the product is implemented, don’t backtrack to phone calls!” Multiple reference checks can be initiated simultaneously and the onus is on candidates to identify references and reach out to them. In addition, online reference checking results in higher quality feedback. Eve remarked, “People are more likely to participate in a reference check when they feel that the candidate has given permission for them to provide input. Individuals also give more honest information when they have multiple questions to respond to at their leisure and they can provide written comments.”

Once a candidate’s references are completed, the feedback is combined into one report which facilitates easy comparisons between references. Another report also enables the hiring manager to compare references across multiple candidates for a single position. These reports are significant improvements over the check-box based forms that Wilson Memorial Hospital used before for references. Eve believes that by giving hiring managers user-friendly decision making tools, it builds credibility for the HR department. He feels it’s good internal marketing for HR when the team makes it easy to hire good employees. Although Wilson Memorial Hospital hasn’t formally quantified the benefits associated with Reference Assessment, the HR department expects annual savings of around $6,000 in time and $50,000 due to avoiding bad hires.

Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital

Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital has experienced a marked increase in hiring over the past year. The growth in the number of hires highlighted how cumbersome the organization’s traditional reference checking processes were. Each candidate is required to provide three references and contacting them by phone could take as long as two weeks or more. The Human Resources team tried to create their own semi-automated system, but it wasn’t very effective. Mary Ann Heinen, Employment Specialist, commented, “The system we created just didn’t work. We had a form that we faxed or emailed to references, but sometimes they couldn’t access it electronically or the fax got lost.”

Not only were traditional reference checks time-consuming, they also didn’t provide a genuine and unbiased assessment of candidates. Heinen noted, “When you have a phone conversation with a reference, if the person hesitates for any reason, it can cast doubt on the candidate. We wanted an approach to reference checks that wasn’t influenced by the HR team’s personal involvement.”

To address these issues, Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital decided it was time to evaluate online reference checking solutions. They considered HealthcareSource Reference Assessment and another vendor. Reference Assessment was the preferred product based on its price and the fact that it provides a complete package for hiring managers. Josh Schultz, Employment Specialist, observed that hiring managers really like Reference Assessment because the reports provide all references in one place and it’s easy to compare candidates.

With Reference Assessment, the HR team gains insight into how responsible and accountable candidates are. How quickly candidates reach out to references is an indicator of their interest in the job and taking the next step. Heinen said, “If a candidate takes a week to contact their references, we wonder how sincerely they want the job.” In addition, the reference checking process is much less time consuming for Human Resources, since they no longer have to track down references by phone or email.

Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital has been very satisfied with Reference Assessment, as well as with HealthcareSource. Heinen and Schultz said, “HealthcareSource customer service is always spot on when we ask questions by phone and email. They are very receptive to our feature requests and really listen to what we need. If they can make something work for our organization, they will.”

Wilson Memorial Hospital
Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital

Individuals give more honest information when they have multiple questions to respond to at their leisure and they can provide written comments.

John Eve
Vice President, Human Resources
Wilson Memorial Hospital


Hiring managers really like Reference Assessment because the reports provide all references in one place and it’s easy to compare candidates.

Josh Schultz
Employment Specialist
Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital


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