The official blog of Abacus Group — a place to share our knowledge and thoughts on trends in recruiting

November 01, 2016

Your Checklist for Supplying References to a Prospective Employer

A hiring manager’s request for professional references is a favorable sign. Your resume was impressive, you interviewed well, and, possibly, you’ve made it past a round or two of candidate elimination.

But it is too early to celebrate just yet. There are most likely other candidates under consideration for the position, and factors beyond references influence final hiring decisions, so there is no guarantee that a job offer is coming.

Nonetheless, a reference check request absolutely indicates interest, and it is imperative to maximize this final opportunity to strengthen your candidacy. Here are some important items to know about the process.

Understand the purpose of reference checks.

Reference checks—verbal discussions with individuals other than the applicant—provide an extra safeguard against a regrettable hire. Conversations with current or former colleagues, supervisors, or subordinates may help reveal misrepresentation expressed on your resume or during interviews. They can also expose downplayed strengths or weaknesses with specific examples and anecdotes.

Familiarize yourself with typical reference check practices.

Ordinarily, the employer will ask references about the following items: the length of time you have known one another, the quality of your work, the areas in which you excel, the areas in which you can improve, how you interact with others, and, if applicable, whether or not the reference would hire you again. An employer is not forbidden from stating that you were terminated from a past role.

Determine who will make a good reference.

An ideal reference will speak highly of your professional skills and personality. Depending on your level of experience, the references should be relevant to the job for which you’re applying. Additionally, the assortment of references provided should be diverse; they should not be from the same company or consist entirely of peers, for instance. Sharing references from different areas and eras of your professional life give the employer a well-rounded understanding of your abilities.

Check in with the references in advance.

Do not share a reference’s information without notifying them. When you check in with them, be sure to explain the position, your interest, and a few talking points they can use to advocate for your candidacy. Lastly, confirm all of their current contact information, company name, and position title. This way, you can provide all pertinent information to the employer.

As stated, reference checks are not the core of the hiring process. If another candidate has stronger personal or technical qualifications that you do, a strong reference check will not save you. Still, it is important to complete the process diligently to provide the best possible outcome for your candidacy.

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