Hiring Strategy

How Important are References in the Interview Process?

Reference checks are very important and when comparing final candidates, they can make the difference in selection. They can confirm or deny the fit of a job seeker to a potential employer. When looking for a new job, don’t overlook providing great references to your future employer. Avoid getting references that will give you a mediocre review. A “less than stellar” reference will make it harder for a job seeker to be strongly considered for a position.

Recruiters will tell you that a less than positive reference is a very strong indication that they should not proceed with an applicant. Most recruiters feel that references are valuable. They give potential employers additional information on what they can expect by hiring you. References reveal more information on your work ethic and habits from a supervisor or co-worker with firsthand knowledge. Choose your references wisely, even if it so happens that they are never contacted by an employer considering you for a position.

A good rule of thumb is to provide three references. Quality is more important than quantity. Less than three, raises the question why you couldn’t find enough people to speak on your behalf, and listing more might raise a red flag on why so many. Three is considered a good happy medium. Recent immediate supervisors are the best references as they have the most current experience information on your performance. Often times we know it’s difficult to provide a most recent or current supervisor, so a past supervisor is the next best choice.

Consider the following when providing references:

Make sure your references are prepared. References can unintentionally discredit your work. It may not be their fault if they are not up to speed on your key projects or achievements. Do not assume anything. Talk to your references in advance and agree on what will be said if someone calls. Take the time to provide your reference a copy of your latest resume.

Impressions from a reference will be ever-lasting. A reference that comes across lukewarm and monotone and offers no comments does not help your cause. It creates a red flag. If the person was listed as a reference and said, “I have no comment” it raises suspicion. If a reference never returns the employer’s call, it raises another red flag. Did you provide the correct contact information, or does the reference not want to be bothered? This leaves another unfavorable impression. Incorrect phone numbers will waste time and hurt your credibility. Even with a correct phone number, if a reference calls and does not respond quickly it can hurt you. It shows she may not care enough to respond quickly or give you a glowing report.

Make sure your references can provide information related to your start and end dates of employment, the reason you left, your strengths and weaknesses, responsibilities and major achievements, salary and bonuses, your work ethic, communication skills and willingness to rehire.

Follow up with your references. Always follow up with your references after they have talked to the reference checker to see how the conversation went. This will give you a good sense of areas of importance to the employer, and possibly more information on the skills and experiences for the position. You may also gain input on any perceived weaknesses you may have. Let your references know how your job search is going and especially when you land the new position. It’s a courtesy to send them a thank you note for their help in the process. Remember, they may be the difference maker in you getting the position.

You need to understand how important references become in your job search. They are critical and can make the difference in you landing a new job. Negative, neutral and “no comments” can be fatal to you getting hired. Don’t let lukewarm or silent references ruin your chances. Put the time and energy into making sure your references become an asset; not a liability. Be proactive and prepared.

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