Reference Checks


According to The Institute for Trend Research, there are currently approximately 3.5 million job openings in this country, despite an unemployment rate hovering at 8.3%.  Current job openings represent a 20.9% increase over one year ago.  How can that be so, one might be inclined to ask?  Institute experts suggest that the in-demand jobs are in areas like manufacturing engineering and bioengineering.  Other areas of high demand include advanced manufacturing and the life sciences, all of which typically require years of education.  One of the areas hardest hit during the recession was construction jobs; and, as a result, construction skills don’t easily translate into the requirements of the job skills most in demand now.

The net effect, as the Institute points out, is, “the education divide between the in-demand jobs and the skill set of the unemployed suggests the unemployment rate will likely stay high in coming years, even with the economy expanding.”

 The gap between the skills of the unemployed and the skill requirements of the most in-demand jobs, suggests that careful reference checking will continue to be an important component of an effective hiring strategy.  Making sure that candidates for employment have the skills the job requires will be only half of the challenge, however.  A careful evaluation of soft skills will also be necessary to avoid costly hiring mistakes.
 It’s really a two-step process.  The first step is objectively determining if the candidate’s qualifications for the job are in line with the requirements of the job.  The second part of the process is to determine if the candidate has the soft skills – such as the ability to think creatively, solve problems, work as a member of a team, and communicate effectively – required by the majority of the jobs that are emerging as the economy grows.  In many instances, the long-term unemployed will need training in both areas in order the meet the job skill needs of today’s employers.

 What must also be kept in mind is that it’s one thing to claim to have a particular skill set and quite another to actually possess the higher level skills of the jobs that are currently going unfilled.  Careful reference checking, therefore, is one of the surest ways to guard against those job seekers who claim to have skills they really don’t possess.  A large part of the problem for the unemployed is the time required to acquire the threshold educational skills necessary in a changing economy.  The other part of the problem, especially in the short-run, will be acquiring the soft skills necessary to function effectively in the emerging workplace where the in-demand jobs are.
Stated another way, as the economy grows stronger, despite high unemployment, it will be critical to make the best hiring decisions possible.  As more and more of the unemployed become increasingly desperate to find a job, the tendency to embellish, overstate, and simply be less-than-honest on a job application or resume will likely increase.
The importance, therefore, of making sure the candidate is who he or she claims to be will be surpassed only by insuring that the candidate has all the requisite skills – both the technical skills and the soft skills – necessary to do the job successfully.