During the course of recruiting, sourcing and screening candidates the Marler & Associates team have conducted numerous interviews and read countless resumes.

During the recruiting process we’ve also conducted an unknown number of reference checks and have found that candidate supplied references have become increasingly irrelevant to our recruitment clients and us.

Candidate supplied reference checks are part of the recruitment process but nowadays they rarely provide any value.  In my opinion, contacting the references supplied by the candidate is an antiquated way of determining someone’s suitability for a role.

Here are some of the reasons why our recruiters formed this opinion and some suggestions for finding more relevant references.


  1. The legal implications of providing a negative reference will deter people from speaking their mind and providing you with the unveiled truth.  I’ve been guilty of this myself!  The reference may want to warn you by providing feedback about the recruited candidate’s bad performance or truancy but the potential legal consequences discourage them from being honest with you.
  2. References provided by the recruited candidate are likely close friends, trusted colleagues or past managers that are required by agreement or law to provide a favorable reference.  The references are usually rehearsed and predictable adding little or no value to the process.


  1. Search your social networks to find out how and if you’re connected to the candidate.  LinkedIn would be your first stop for any professional but Facebook, Twitter and Google+ can add valuable insight.  Although the process is informal it can be very effective.  Find someone in common that you’ve worked with, been a client of or has been a client of yours.  Reach out to them and ask their opinion, in most cases your connection will be more than happy to help you out.
  2. Depending on the circumstances of the role and the candidates past experience, sourcing a reference from a past client is one of the best ways a determining a candidates worthiness.  You have to be cautious with this type of reference.  Sourcing this type of reference should be done only when you are at the offer stage with the candidate and are 99% certain that it’s the right person for your workforce.  If done too early you run the risk of souring the candidate’s relationship with his client and/or employer.  This could have detrimental effect on you and the candidate.  Use with care!

Although this isn’t an exhaustive list of all your reference options it’s simple, easy and enough to get you started without breaking the bank.

The traditional reference checks during the recruitment process are becoming increasingly irrelevant and an ineffective use of your time.  If you haven’t already done so, leverage your social networks to dig up what you can on a recruited candidate.  Before long you’ll become effective and efficient with your searches and I guaranty you’ll be adding value to your own recruiting process.