Mind Your Reference Checks

Reference checks are a danger zone for job candidates and the potential employer.

by Eric Holdeman / April 8, 2019

I got the following "partial" message today — see my comments that come after the quote:

"In today’s job-seekers’ market, candidates have options and typically know they are in good hands when asked for job references by a potential employer.

However, Seattle senior managers we surveyed said they’ve removed one in three (32 percent) from consideration after checking references.

The main reasons Seattle managers are checking references:

  • 48% said to get a view into the applicants’ strengths and weaknesses
  • 14% said to get a description of past job duties and experience
  • 21% said to get a confirmation of job title and dates of employment

See the latest BLS jobs report for March.

Eric writing:

Here are two sets of reference tips, two for the candidate, two for the employer.

Candidate Tip: When asking people to be your work reference — after they say "yes," they will be one. Ask them this question, "Is there anything about my character, personality, knowledge or performance that you would feel compelled to talk about in a negative manner?" This puts them on notice that they — if they agree, will not say anything bad about you. If they would do so, then you picked a poor reference. And, when lining up references, you should identify superiors, peers and subordinates to be in your stable of references. I always say the person who knows you the least is your boss, next are your peers. The people who know you best are your subordinates.

Employer Tip: You can have the usual questions about strengths, weaknesses, etc., but the last question to ask is this. "Is there anything about this person's character, personality, knowledge or performance that you would like to share with me?" You might be surprised to hear what "the reference" might have to say.  And, I would always ask, is there someone else who knows this candidate well who you think would be a good person to talk to? This might get you out of the circle of mutual admiration that references often belong to.