Are referees still important?

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LinkedIn endorsements, online recommendations and more fleshed-out social media profiles have become important elements of understanding a candidate and evaluating them for a position in today’s world – and all of these exist outside of the traditional resume.

Due to these developments, some employers believe referees and references are no longer relevant to recruitment. “Different social media profiles and other information that is kept up to date will provide a much richer experience than a [traditional] resume can,” Bryce Dunn, senior vice president at PageUp People, told HRM Online’s sister publication Human Captial.

Dunn elaborated on the activity of a candidate – such as their posts on message boards relating to the profession – being more telling of them and their skills than a resume.

However, Jason Walker, managing director of Hays in New Zealand stated traditional references were still relevant.

While online recommendations were beneficial in showing the skills individuals are best known for, recruiters and employers should still seek out referees.

Referees provide the most complete and important sources of information on candidates, as they will be able to demonstrate how a candidate used their skills and experience to help benefit their previous employers.

Walker believes former managers can speak with a voice and authority to recruiters about a candidate that isn’t possible through online references, due to being able to make a first-hand account of the candidate in regards to their personal attributes such as relationship building, collaboration abilities and reliability.

He does acknowledge though the decay of a referee over time. Walker said candidates may need to jog the memory of referees if a long time has passed since the candidate has searched for work. By comparison, online recommendations and references are often written close to when achievements have occurred, meaning the information is less likely to be influenced by the referee’s own memory.

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