Eighty-seven percent of human resource professionals say their company has checked prospective employees' references within the past year, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.
Don't underestimate the importance of the reference check. This final, crucial step in the hiring process can mean the difference between an offer and a rejection letter.
Your Best Friend Isn't Your Best Reference
When choosing references, look at your list from a prospective employer's point of view.
Your mom may be your biggest cheerleader, but she's not your best reference. Employers don't care that you won the sixth-grade spelling bee. They want to know what kind of worker you are.
A good reference confirms and elaborates on the information in your resume. More important, he gives positive feedback on your skills and experience.
Former managers, clients and colleagues make the best references, because they have first-hand knowledge of your job performance. If you're new to the workforce, you may want to ask a professor or teacher to serve as a reference.
Avoid using friends and family as references as well as people who have known you less than one year.
Most importantly, make sure you've asked permission before listing someone as a reference. In this case, the element of surprise won't work to your advantage.
Give the Right Info to Get the Job
Don't bother to list your references on your resume, where space is at a premium. Employers assume you can provide them upon request.
When you arrive for the interview, you'll likely be asked to complete a job application which will include a place for references. So, be sure to bring a list of your references.
Confirm all information, such as name, title, phone number and e-mail address, before providing it to a prospective employer. An employer won't spend time tracking down a reference.
What Can You Tell Me About Jane Doe?
While policies on reference checks vary from company to company, it's virtually guaranteed that a prospective employer will ask two basic questions:
- What were your dates of employment?
- What was your official title?
Employers often ask subjective questions that require your references to share opinions about you. These address your strengths, weaknesses, ability to work as part of a team, etc.
If you expect an employer to check your references, it's a good idea to call the people you've listed and forewarn them. That gives them time to think about what they'll say.
It also gives you an opportunity to prepare them by describing the position and pointing out your relevant experience and skills.
When Good References Go Bad
No matter how carefully you choose your references, there's no way to guarantee what they'll say.
Generally speaking, defamation laws prevent references from purposefully giving false information. If you suspect a reference is giving inaccurate information about you to a prospective employer, you can have a reference-checking service investigate for a fee.
The best way to avoid a bad reference: Don't ask people to give references unless you're certain they'll have good things to say.