Confidence, Communication, Knowledge, and Time Management Are Top Areas Where Job Candidates Could Improve – According to Their Professional References

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SkillSurvey’s Recent Seminal Study of the Content of Qualitative Feedback Obtained from Structured, Confidential Reference Checks Identifies Top Strengths and Areas of Improvement for Job Candidates

SkillSurvey, Inc., the provider of cloud-based reference checking and credentialing solutions that deliver reliable insights, announced that confidence, communication, knowledge, experience, and time management/prioritizing work are the top areas where job candidates could improve, according to its study of thousands of verbatim comments provided by references during confidential reference checks. The research was presented by the SkillSurvey Analytics Team at the annual conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) which took place in Anaheim, CA in April, 2016.

“It’s been very exciting to initiate the industry’s most extensive text analysis to date of feedback on job candidates, which will ultimately help us gain a better understanding of the workforce,” said Dr. Cynthia Hedricks, SkillSurvey’s Chief Analytics Officer. “We always hear that the verbatim comments provided by references are considered one of the most informative and critical parts of the candidate feedback report, yet there are few studies of the content provided, or of the impact of this information on hiring decisions and subsequent success on the job.”

“We’re very proud of the team’s continued leadership in understanding and validating reference feedback and deepening our ability to provide business critical information for hiring managers,” said SkillSurvey’s CEO Ray Bixler. “This text analysis builds on the 17 scientific validity studies that our Analytics Team members have conducted already, which have proven that quantitative feedback from references is predictive of such work outcomes as turnover and performance ratings.”

Looking at a sample that included 44,941 words or short phrases that were provided by references, the team identified the following top work-related areas of improvement and strengths:

Top Areas of Improvement:

e.g. “Joe was sometimes not confident in what he was doing.”

e.g. “Communication in our job is key so Rick can always improve a notch just making sure the right people are aware of an issue that could affect their financials”

e.g. “I believe her limited experience is an area for improvement”

e.g. “Needs to gain more industry specific knowledge for further development and growth.”

Time Management/Prioritizing
e.g. “Time management would be his biggest area of opportunity.”

Top Strengths:

e.g. “Alice is a very dedicated, loyal employee and is always there.”

Dependable/Meets Deadlines
e.g. “Reliable! Give him a job and he will get it done.”

Team Orientation
e.g. “Team player - Works well with teams pulling his weight and the weight of others.”

Attention to Detail/Accuracy
e.g. “He is meticulous in his attention to detail - never leaving any loose ends in his work.”

e.g. “Positive attitude, happy, well rounded”

Using SkillSurvey’s online, automated reference system, recruiters enter a job candidate and then choose a job-specific survey from a library of hundreds of options, which map to thousands of job titles in the workplace. Candidates enter their professional (work) references, and confidential feedback by the references is submitted to the online system – typically in less than two days. In addition to quantitative ratings, feedback can be provided by references in the form of optional, open-ended comments on the candidate’s top three work-related strengths and areas for improvement.

To conduct the study, the Analytics team selected at random, stratified sampling of 200 candidates reference checked on each one of 16 job-specific, representative surveys. Four references (2 managers and 2 coworkers) per candidate were randomly chosen for analysis, yielding a sample of feedback from 12,800 references (3,200 candidates x 4 references each).    

Principles of grounded theory and a non-evaluative approach known as in vivo coding were utilized. This coding methodology was chosen as there are no large-scale published studies on the nature or content of qualitative data provided by a candidate’s job references to guide, on an a priori basis, the use of a deductive coding framework.

IBM® SPSS® Text Analytics for Surveys software was used to identify or extract words and short phrases that were provided by the job references. The most frequently-occurring word or short phrase that was extracted was used to name the category. Summing across all categories yielded 44,941 words or short phrases that were coded.

About SkillSurvey®
SkillSurvey is the leader in online reference checking and credentialing, providing immediately useful insights to help employers make better hiring decisions. SkillSurvey speeds hiring for commercial, higher education, healthcare, and staffing and recruiting organizations. Its cloud-based referencing and credentialing solutions answer vital questions that help organizations hire the right people for every role.

Pre-Hire 360® provides insight into past job performance and is proven to predict future turnover, hiring manager satisfaction, and performance ratings. An unmatched library of scientifically-designed surveys produces job-specific data employers can trust. SkillSurvey Credential OnDemandTM provides healthcare organizations with streamlined digital credentialing that simplifies and enhances the credentialing experience for all participants. SkillSurvey makes the referencing and credentialing process more efficient and effective — helping employers save time and money, grow revenues, and bring employees onboard faster.

Visit SkillSurvey at, and on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

SkillSurvey®, and Pre-Hire 360® and SkillSurvey Credential OnDemandTM are registered trademarks of SkillSurvey Inc. or its affiliates and are registered in the U.S. and other countries.

SkillSurvey’s Pre-Hire 360® is a patented solution. For more information, see

© 2016 SkillSurvey Inc. and its affiliates.

SkillSurvey Media Contact:

Joseph Germani / Stephanie Sabath
Sloane & Company
(212) 446-1899 / jgermani(at)sloanepr(dot)com
(212) 446-1873 / ssabath(at)sloanepr(dot)com

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Stephanie Sabath
Sloane & Company
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