The reference check is probably the most ignored part of the job search process.
As a recruiter I’m always amazed how many job searchers consider the reference check to be a moot point given how little time and effort they spend on this part of their job search.
Typically, references are completed by a company (or recruiter) directly before they are about to make a job offer. Companies aren’t in the process of creating extra work for themselves so they tend to only proceed with references when they are about to make an offer to someone or in rare cases, when they are trying to decide between two candidates they consider to be equal.
In this case, the references could be the deciding point to determine which of the two candidates gets the job!
There are probably two big myths surrounding the reference check and they can cost you a job because they are both wrong:
Reference Check Myth 1: Once you’ve made it to the reference check stage, you’ve pretty much got the job offer wrapped up.
The assumption here seems to be that the reference check is unimportant. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
The purpose of a reference check is for a hiring manager to verify your experience and to verify the positive thoughts that they have about you with an independent source, someone who has worked with you in the past.
A poor reference check can and most likely will cost you a job.
Reference Check Myth 2: There is no such thing as a bad reference check.
Uh, yes there is… Trust me, I’ve completed a bad reference check for some of my job candidates on more than one occasion. The “best” bad reference check was for a woman whose former boss told me that he refused to provide a reference check for her because she hadn’t left his company on good terms and he wanted nothing to do with her!
Apparently, his opinion of this lady was not quite as high as she thought it would be…Needless to say I stopped helping this lady with her job search as soon as this happened.
If I had been a hiring manager about to offer her a job and I’d gotten this response during a reference check, do you think I would have then made her a job offer?
Neither do I.
The only reference check you should be getting is a glowing one.
Otherwise, why would you utilize this person as a reference?
Of course, no one is perfect and you’re certainly not asking your references to lie about your background. But if you use someone as a reference who refuses to even provide a reference check for you or gives you a really poor one, you should expect to lose out on jobs.
How should you organize your references?
Be sure to do the following at a minimum:
1. Put together a list of perhaps 4 references ideally. Most companies will do 3 reference checks so having a spare person listed helps if one of the other references you mentioned are hard to get hold of, if they are on holiday, etc.
2. Choose business references who know you well and who will honestly answer questions regarding your background in detail. Try to avoid people who give short yes and no answers to questions if possible. As a recruiter, I’ve done references where getting a detailed answer from the person is like pulling teeth, which is not helpful to your chances at getting the job!
3. Let each of your references know BEFORE they are going to be called to do a reference check for you. This way, they won’t be surprised when they get the call and you can tell them in advance which company will be calling them, what job you are being considered for and so that you can let them know which of your skills they will be asked about.
4. Don’t forget to thank your references after you’ve gotten the job. You might need to utilize them as references again in the future so don’t be a stranger and forget to keep in touch with them.
The reference check stage of the job search process can’t be underestimated even though many people do this. People do lose out on job offers at this stage and in many cases, probably don’t even realize it!
On that note, if you find you are performing well in interviews, make it to the reference check stage, but then don’t get a job offer, you might need to look at who you are using as references and figure out if there is a problem.
If one or more of your references aren’t giving you a glowing reference, you need to know about it so that you can find out why, and then find another person to use in their place.
If you have put this much time and effort to get this close to getting a new job, don’t risk throwing it away now at the reference check stage.