By the time you’re asked for references, you’re probably feeling pretty good. You may even pat yourself on the back and say “I got this!” It IS a good sign when you’re asked to provide references, but don’t go changing your LinkedIn or Facebook profile to that new job title just yet. Here are a few guidelines and red flags to watch out for.
Think twice about listing peers
Pick a boss, manager or superior to be your reference. If you were a manager or in another supervisory role, avoid picking direct reports as references. Ideally, aim to have at least 2 of your 3 references be people you reported to directly.
Always pick people who will speak highly, yet honestly, about you. An overly complimentary reference can be just as bad as a negative one. Experienced hiring managers can tell when references are exaggerating or giving them fluff answers instead of real facts and opinions about a person. No one is expecting you to be perfect. We all have strengths and weaknesses. The purpose of the reference checking process is to find out if you are who you say you are, if your resume reflects your true skills and if you would be a good fit for the organization.
Prep your references beforehand
It sounds really bad to a recruiter when they call someone who seems surprised to be contacted. Even worse, some references have even blurted out “I’m not sure why I was even asked to be a reference.” Oops. You can avoid this scenario by keeping your references in the loop and giving them a heads up that they’re going to get a call. Even better, provide them with a copy of your resume, tell them a little bit about the position you’re applying for and give them a few reminders about which skills you’re hoping they can emphasize. You don’t want them to sound scripted, but it can help to refresh their memory on your background, especially if you have not seen or worked with the person for awhile.
Don’t Hand In Your References Too Early
Wait until you’re asked! Our recruiters ask for the names of 3 past managers, even if we were already given a pre-prepared list.
“We want to see how well a candidate stays connected to past management after they leave. Good employees have a network from past jobs and companies that they can rely on. Mediocre or weak candidates often leave companies on bad terms and don’t have the same network.” – Chris Garrie, VP of Recruiting
Leave References Off Your Resume
Use the space at the bottom of your resume for more important information. If you have them on there, recruiters are already evaluating who you listed. Everything you say, do or write during the application and interview process is a clue. Make sure these clues play to your advantage.
The Red Flags
- Weak references. These include personal friends, professors (if you have been out of college more than a few years), ministers/pastors, parents and in-laws. Yes, we have seen it all.
- What Your Reference Says Is Just As Important As What They Don’t. If your reference sounds rehearsed or like they are withholding information, our radar goes up.
- Suspicious Answers To The Hard Questions. Long pauses and being too careful with responses or being too complimentary are very telling to a hiring manager.
“If the person on the other end of the line is not providing much information or seems frustrated, it’s a good sign that they aren’t interested in talking about the person, no matter what they are actually saying. People are cordial and upbeat when they’re doing a favor for someone they truly like. They are short and curt if they’re talking about someone they don’t.” – Rob Mischler, Staffing Manager
Reference checking is a way to find out what motivates someone, what type of employee they are and how likely they are to fit in, produce and stay at their potential new place of employment. While every hiring manager or recruiter has their own method for handling references, it’s better to err on the side of caution and make sure you pick the right references and prep them properly. Do this and you will increase the odds of landing that job!
Bonus tip: Encourage your references to respond to that initial call as soon as possible. We’re not expecting them to answer the call on the spot, but if we don’t hear back within a few days, that can be a bad sign.
Oldcastle is North America’s largest manufacturer of building products and materials. With more than 2,000 locations throughout North America, we are in constant pursuit of the next generation of successful decision makers, leaders and problem solvers. Learn more about joining the Oldcastle team HERE.