Six Reference Rules

Posted: 10/9/2013

By: Elias Cobb, Quantix Recruiting Manager

An issue we run into occasionally involves references. Checking references is something most employers will do (as well as most staffing companies) if you are working through one.

There are the rules to follow as far as YOUR references go:

1) HAVE SOME REFERENCES, especially from your most recent position!! You'd be surprised by how often candidates will apply for a job and won't have a reference from their last position. If you can, ask your manager to be a reference. If you are still employed, ask a peer. Not having a reference from your most recent position is a red flag for many employers and can hurt your chances for a new job.

2) Get your reference's personal contact information. Many candidates come in and say, "I can't find my previous manager," or "My company went under and I lost track of everyone." While that can be understood to some extent, if your previous manager really liked you and would be a great reference, you need to make sure you get his or her cell phone number and / or personal email.

3) Have a reference who will actually say something about you. Everyone knows many companies have "no reference" policies, as do many HR departments. You need to find someone who can vouch for your skills, particularly from your most previous position. Ask a manager if he or she can give you a reference "off the record" on their own time and have it be a personal reference. Again, having no real references from an employer can be a red flag.

4) If you were fired or left on bad terms... well, you still need a reference, especially if this was your most recent position. Best case? Get a manager or a peer who can vouch for your point of view or can speak to the situation. Worst case? If no one from that company can help explain why you were fired (in a way that HELPS you), make sure you have a few more supervisory references from other positions that will speak about you in glowing terms.

5) Don't hold out on providing references when asked. I do have candidates who will refuse to provide references. Even if you have a valid reason for doing so, it still makes you appear evasive and as if you have something to hide. It IS valid to ask the company not to check references until a certain point in the hiring process - say, when the hiring company has shown an actual interest in you as a candidate by at least interviewing you.

6) Make sure you have gotten the person's permission to use them as a reference. You don't want to give out a name of someone who isn't willing to give you a reference or someone you don't know well enough to know what they might say about you.

One final note and this goes out to anyone who is a hiring manager. If you are going to require a reference from someone you are hiring, you better be willing to provide a reference for someone that left your company on good terms. I've always felt it is somewhat hypocritical for a company to have a "no reference" policy, yet require that candidates have a reference performed before hiring.