"Recently, there has been an abundance of fake job reference Web sites popping up, which makes the process of spotting fake references that much more difficult," Schrage says. "So these days, I also ask the candidate to provide the names of three coworkers in addition to the reference, and I also do a generic Internet search on the name of the company to see if it's real."
Another hiring executive, Eric Lagerquist, senior consultant at Eliasen Group, an IT recruitment and staffing firm in Wakefiled, Mass., has been burned by fake references.
"In one instance, I had a consultant give me two manager references from his last assignment at a company in New Jersey," Lagerquist says. "He told me that they were both current, fulltime managers at the company. I knew something was up when the phone numbers for each reference did not have New Jersey area codes."
Lagerquist called the first number and got a glowing reference.
"I asked the manager how long the consultant had been in that office and was told five years," he says. "When I asked the manager for his title, he gave me one. When I asked him for his landline office number, he hung up. The same thing happened with the second call."
A fake reference "is far worse than a poor reference, and once I uncover the deception, I will not consider that candidate for any future openings I have," Lagerquist says. "My rationale is simple: a fake reference tells me that the candidate knows that he or she is not fit for the role and is underhanded enough to try and fake his or her way in. If a candidate will lie about a reference, what will keep him or her from lying about other things?"
In Eliasen Group's case, fake references can also hurt business.
"If a fake reference gets past us, the possibility of a bad client experience with the consultant increases, which is an outcome that staffing firms cannot allow to happen, ever," Lagerquist says.
LinkedIn has played a vital role in combating fake references, Lagerquist says this.
"As soon as I get a reference name and title, I will look it up on LinkedIn," he says. If the name, title and company all match up, he feels more secure about the validity of the reference.
"We use all of the available Internet tools to be sure that the person on the phone is really an employee of the referenced company," Lagerquist says. "On the process side, we investigate until we are confident that we have strong, valid references."
At online recruitment firm Mojo Master in Larkspur, Calif., "everyone that's been fired has had great( references coming in the door," says John Younger, (president. "So, there are some things we now do (throughout the interviewing and hiring process to mitigate this."
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