Recruiters are being urged to let candidates determine where their references come from in light of recent controversy surrounding LinkedIn’s premium search functionality.

The social network is facing a class-action lawsuit in America after recruiters were found utilising the premium search option to anonymously dig into the employment history of prospective candidates and request references and information from ex-colleagues without their knowledge. Recruitment experts at rapid recruitment software specialist Mercury xRM, is reminding recruiters that candidates should always be in control of the referencing process.

References have long been an invaluable tool for recruiters and their clients in qualifying the calibre, profile and traits of candidates. Social media has introduced another angle which has potentially dangerous consequences if best practice isn’t followed,”

explained Chris Kendrick, Sales Director and product visionary at Mercury xRM; someone with 18 years’ experience in the recruitment sector.

Whilst LinkedIn has introduced a clever and useful function it is still the candidate who should determine the relevant references based on their experience whilst with an employer; references from co-workers opens up a whole new host of issues.

The lawsuit alleges that many candidates have had employment opportunities taken away from them when co-workers provided base references – opportunities they could have seized had they been able to collect a reference from their previous employer instead. Although it is being argued that a candidate’s Linkedin information is in the public domain, best practice states that recruiters will have permission from a candidate before seeking a reference and that the candidate themselves can suggest the best person to obtain a reference from. References should be sought from employers and not co-workers, unless otherwise specified by the candidate. Negative references that are not backed up by an employer can result in a legal claim for damages.

Chris Kendrick continued:

There is no doubt that social networking websites such as LinkedIn are extremely useful tools for recruiters, but it is important that they are utilised with discretion. They should never become a shortcut for recruitment processes or used as a tool for espionage. All professional recruiters have a responsibility to candidates to include them in the referencing process and by adhering to this, we can ensure that references are obtained legally, fairly and professionally.