References are an essential part of locking down a job offer. The higher up the corporate ladder the reference is, the better the chance you will be taken seriously as a candidate. There are some pitfalls I’ve observed as a staffing recruiter that will help as you move through the hiring process. Anybody that is working with me will get this same advice.
In today’s litigious society, most companies will not give a thorough reference. Instead, they will simply confirm the dates of employment. The reason for this is that companies fear a lawsuit for defamation if there is an assumption that a “bad reference” led to someone not getting a job. It’s all to avoid a lawsuit. References are harder than ever to come by, and can be increasingly disingenuous.
The first pitfall is your reference not being a previous/current manager. I see a lot of candidates using their co-workers as a reference; this is not going to play well. Best practice is to get at least 2 superiors that you directly reported to. Listing a colleague can come off as lazy, but even worse, can come off as suspicious. Questions start to percolate that the reason you are looking for a new job/left your last job has to do with why you are not listing your manager. Managerial references will speak to your work ethic and your character, along with your culture fit. A colleague or “equal” will likely say whatever you coach them to say, thus giving your potential employer no solid information.
The second major pitfall is not giving your references a heads-up that they will be contacted. I can’t tell you how many goose chases I’ve been on attempting to track down a reference who was not aware they were a reference. Furthermore, best practice is always to inform your reference that somebody will be calling them soon. Management tend to screen their calls and are thus difficult to connect with. On the same train of thought here, is verifying that this person is an appropriate reference. It might sound shocking, but I have had references remove themselves as a reference due to hardly knowing the candidate (or worse, having a bad relationship with them).
The final thought on references is that some people prefer to write at the bottom of their resume. “References available upon request”. It’s certainly not a deal breaker, but it’s unnecessary filler. Everyone should have references no matter what, and the fact that its not explicit that you have them won’t stop a company from demanding them. From my experience, you are better off either listing them at the end, or not at all.
For the time being, references are still checked, albeit with more legal restrictions. Always let people know you are listing them as a reference, inform them when they will be called, and always list those who were truly your manager.
To message me directly, find me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/joe-arrigo/