The process of securing a job at a company requires potential employees go through several stages of screening and interaction. But there’s one stage, when the hiring company is getting serious, which requires communicating with someone other than the applicant: the job references check.
Potential employers get in touch with past employers, teachers, and/or personal contacts to verify your character, abilities and qualifications for the job.
When you’re interested in making a big purchase, like a car or a house, you ask other people who’ve purchased something similar for their opinion. You talk to the past owners (if it’s second-hand) to get an honest personal review of the product, which goes beyond specification digits and all the fabulous things the salesperson told you.
Similarly, when an organization or business is looking to hire a new employee, they run a reference check to understand how they actually perform.
Almost all job applications require a list of references they can get in contact with. In theory, job references are entirely out of your control.
You cannot force your last boss to sing praises of your work, nor should you! But there are still ways to avoid a negative reference and get one which will help secure the job.
Who to ask for job references
You should have a list of references ready when you apply for a position. Some job applications only require contact details of your past employers when you apply, while others might ask for a letter of recommendation.
This may be fairly obvious, but only mention those people as references who you know will say good things about you. Forego that person with the impressive title, who barely knows you, in favor of the relatively junior person, who actually knows you and wants to see you succeed.
If you’re still fresh on the job market with nobody to call upon for professional references, use a personal reference from the place you volunteer at or a professor from college or high school.
There may be instances where the hiring manager would like to talk to your current employer. Speak to your boss about why you’ve applied for another job and if they would agree to be a reference. If you are not comfortable with doing so, then let the hiring company knows and give your reasons why. It is not necessary that you list your current employer as a reference.
Asking for job references
Make sure you take permission from the person you want to use as a reference. Have a friendly conversation and find out what they would say about your performance and character before listing them.
Also, let them know beforehand what you are applying for and when they can expect a call or letter. Remember that when you provide your former manager’s contact information, the potential employer assumes you’ve told him/her to expect the call. It’s assumed that he/she will be available to talk about you.
Enter complete information
Make a reference list to give at your interview if the recruiter asks for it. Mention the name, job title and contact details of the references.
Make sure that all details are correct and the contact information is up-to-date and in use. Give your references a call to confirm that the number actually belongs to them and it is in use. To be safe, give at least four references in case one or two become unavailable.
Try to neutralize bad job references
In many cases, it is illegal for a past employer to give a negative reference which defames your character, yet it continues to happen.
The founder of Allison & Taylor, a job references check firm, Jeff Shane spoke about the employee verification their company does. She said, “Unfortunately bad references are far more common than most people realize. About half of the reference checks we perform come back with negative comments.”
While many companies may have a policy to inform only the job title and dates of employment, employees frequently violate such policy. Providing a bad reference may be inevitable for some people.
If you’re worried about getting a bad reference, call your former boss and try to understand his opinion about you in advance. If you’re not convinced, try to provide another person as a reference on that company, like the Human Resource manager for example.
If you feel that you are repeatedly hitting a dead end after an interview, you might be a victim of a bad reference. Check up on your listed references and ask them if they were contacted and what was said in an indirect manner. You might be able to identify the person. But if not, change the whole list.
Article by Mishka Nasir Orakzai