New Study Demonstrates Why Employers Should Also Check References from Co-Workers – Not Just Managers

Share Article

Managers Emphasize Task-Related Behaviors; Co-Workers Focus More on Soft Skills. SkillSurvey Study of Comments from 20,000 References Provides Critical Insight into Feedback from Managers vs. Co-Workers on Job Candidates.

SkillSurvey, the provider of cloud-based reference checking solutions that deliver faster, more reliable insights, has completed a first-of-its-kind academic study which finds that when professional references are providing open-ended feedback, managers emphasize task-related behaviors (e.g., meeting deadlines, working independently) while co-workers emphasize interpersonal behaviors (e.g., helpful, compassionate, listening). 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 Orlando, Fla., April 27–29, 2017.

“In today’s workplace, where soft skills matter more than ever, these results really drive home the importance of a holistic reference check, where feedback from both former co-workers and managers is taken into consideration,” said Ray Bixler, SkillSurvey’s CEO and President. “While managers may be able to speak to a candidate’s abilities, a co-worker may provide more insights about a candidate’s office presence and effectiveness as a teammate which has the potential to impact customer service, company culture, and organizational success.

Analyzing a sample that included 20,000 references for 5,000 job candidates (4 references per candidate), the SkillSurvey team identified the most notable differences between what managers and co-workers provided in their open-ended responses:

Areas of Improvement:

-Too Helpful

  • Handling Stress
  • Perfectionist
  • Works Too Much    


  • Experience
  • Proactive

Areas of Strength:


  • Understanding
  • Listening
  • Experience
  • Confidence/Assertiveness
  • Compassionate/Caring
  • Friendly
  • Knowledgeable
  • Helpful    


  • Dependable
  • Reliable
  • Meets Deadlines
  • Works Independently

“This study continues to build on our extensive research on feedback provided by multiple references per candidate, as we now are investigating the differences and similarities in narrative themes provided by former managers versus co-workers,” said Dr. Cynthia A. Hedricks, SkillSurvey’s Chief Analytics Officer. “We are excited to have discovered that while managers hone in on more traditional themes such as task performance, experience and knowledge, co-workers are more likely to emphasize interpersonal behaviors.”

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 from the references is submitted to the online system – typically in less than two days. In addition to numeric ratings on job-specific competency behaviors, references can provide additional feedback in the form of optional, open-ended comments on the candidate’s top three work-related strengths and areas for improvement.


These new data were gathered through SkillSurvey’s massive text analytics study of open-ended narrative comments, focused on a candidate’s strengths and areas for improvement. This feedback came from a total of 20,000 references who provided quantitative (numeric) and qualitative (narrative) data on one of 5,000 job candidates. Specifically, feedback from two managers and two co-workers per candidate yielded a sample of data from 10,000 managers and 10,000 co-workers (25 different job-specific surveys x 200 candidates x 2 manager references x 2 co-worker references). These 5,000 candidates were applying for a job in one of 34 different industries, represented by 636 different companies.

About SkillSurvey®

SkillSurvey is the leader in online reference checking, sourcing 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, sourcing 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 SourceTM, an extension of Pre-Hire 360, helps recruiters source, engage and manage a more robust candidate pipeline through references and referrals. SkillSurvey Credential OnDemand® provides healthcare organizations with a credentialing engagement solution that simplifies and enhances the credentialing experience for all participants. SkillSurvey makes the referencing, sourcing 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®, SkillSurvey Credential OnDemand® and Pre-Hire 360® are registered trademarks of SkillSurvey Inc. or its affiliates and are registered in the U.S. and other countries.

© 2017 SkillSurvey Inc. and its affiliates.

Media Contact:
Stephanie Sabath
Sloane & Company
(212) 446-1873

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Stephanie Sabath
Sloane & Company
+1 (212) 446 1873
Email >
SkillSurvey, Inc.
Like >
Visit website