A friend in the UK recently sent me a tip on better management practices, which relates to employment checks. One important step in the process of recruitment is checking references given by candidate in his employment application. There are two types of references usually requested by the employers – personal and related to a candidate’s employment history.
In the tip it was mentioned that when a candidate for employment has been shortlisted, the employer must carry out a reference check before making an offer of employment. It states that while talking to the person referred “Ask for specific examples and don’t interrupt – sometimes the reference will give you important information. Then match what the reference says to what the candidate said”. Mostly candidates have a tendency to exaggerate their strengths and downplay or hide their weaknesses.
In Western society, management of companies is highly professional. They extend full cooperation to other employers when approached for a reference check. However, the situation in Pakistan is different – especially with employment-related checks. Here ex-employers are reluctant to provide information regarding an individual’s behaviour and job skills.
More than half of the employers contacted by prospective employers will not provide any information particularly if they had sacked the individual. Therefore, local employers cannot make reference checks before offering a job to a candidate. Another dilemma that confronts employers in Pakistan is that sometimes reference checks are received from the previous employer when the employee has already completed his period of probation with the new employer.
These checks may take place through letters, telephone calls or by a personal visit to the employee’s last employer. In either case, cooperation from the latter is solicited. If the employer suspects that the information provided by the new hire is not correct, it is preferable to personally visit the previous employer in order to investigate; such a strategy is more effective and the outcome may serve the purpose.
There is a tendency of non-cooperation among the local employers as they refrain from giving negative comments about an individual, believing that these might jeopardise the employment opportunity of their ex-employee. It may happen that an employee dismissed by an employer on account of committing some financial irregularity, manages to find a job with some bank. Despite his moral obligation, the previous employer will prefer not to give his formal comments when requested by the bank.
A similar situation prevails when employers have to get the authenticity of education certificates/degree submitted checked from the respective education board/university. The process takes so long that the employer offers a job to the candidate without verification.
The difficulty starts when the employer receives the response that the certificate/degree submitted by the employee is forged or bogus. The employer is left with no option but to terminate the employee’s service. This unnecessary cost of recruitment can be saved if the education boards and universities handle verifications expeditiously.
Companies that have reciprocal systems of information sharing do not face such difficulties. The education and reference checks of a job candidate are an important step in recruitment. Ideally these should be done prior to making a job offer. But post-employment checks also help in the assessment of a new employee.
The writer is an industrialrelations professional.