Double Check Your References… Before Recruiters Do

ReferencesAs a recruiter, one of the most frustrating, and most important, parts of the recruitment process is checking the candidates’ references. If everyone does their job, this could be a completely painless, easy, and even fun, process.

The problem is candidates rarely seem to understand how this is supposed to work.

They don’t think very hard about who they list as references… references who will be speaking to the recruiter on their behalf. Most of the time, it seems people just think that I won’t bother to call the references… even though I tell them I’m going to.

From a recruiter’s perspective, here are some tips to consider when you choose your next professional references.

Your References Should Know They Are References

This first point may seem obvious. You’d be surprised. If you have an interview lined up, tell your references that they may get a call. And if you already interviewed for a job, you should tell your references about it. When I call a reference and they tell me they know you went on an interview for the position and were expecting a call, it makes me feel like you really wanted the job.

The advanced notice also gives your references time to think about your skills that would be good for that position. They can then highlight for the recruiter what would make you an excellent employee.

Ask What Kind of Reference They’ll Be

I’m always shocked when I contact someone and they tell me how terrible the candidate is. I understand when there’s a little bit of constructive criticism, but some managers will tell me outright that the candidate is an idiot and shouldn’t be employed by anyone.

References provide a lot of information about a candidate’s potential performance, and reveal opportunities to coach a candidate. For example, I’ve had references say that the candidate had difficulty saying “no” to management, taking on too many projects and end up staying late to complete them all. This is good information for the candidate’s new manager to have.

Ensure Your References Will Have Time to Talk

I love calling managers who tell me that they don’t have 20 minutes to provide a reference. That means they don’t provide references. Ideally they should have told you ahead of time.

I understand that some companies don’t provide references at all, but try to do something to compensate without getting a friend or co-worker to help out. Generally, we’re looking for someone who has supervised your work. Find someone who has managed you in a volunteer setting at least.

Don’t screw up your chances at gaining a position because of a bad reference. Generally, when I contact your references, I already like you. You got through the screening, you did well on the testing and in the interview, and the hiring manager feels you’re a good fit. At this point, the recruiter’s choice could be between you and just one other candidate.

Ensure your references make recruiters want to hire YOU.





Scott-KeenanAbout the Author: Scott Keenan is a twenty-something recruter with a uniquely cynical view on everything. Scott specializes in Human Resources and Marketing, and he “shares the awesome with you as often as he can.” Check out Scott’s blog, and connect with him on Twitter!


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