Most organizations check the references of a candidate applying for a job, before deciding to move ahead or drop his/her candidature. References essentially serve as endorsements of a candidate’s credentials, work style, and professional conduct. The company wants to make sure they are making the right investment on the right candidate.
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According to Monster, almost 60 percent of employers claim that they have had to withdraw an offer of employment after receiving poor references about successful applicants. References can act like your brand ambassadors or as critics, and can have a strong influence on hiring decisions. But before we discuss how to go about choosing your references, here’s what you should know about the reference-checking process.
- Companies can ask for professional and personal references: Professional references are people you’ve worked with, and have had a reporting or working relationship and include supervisors, co-workers, one over managers (if you’ve worked closely), clients, vendors, etc. Personal references are mostly asked of fresh graduates or people with no prior experience and can include educational references like those from college professors, or from volunteering/interning experience. Your personal references may not know how you would perform on the job, but may be able to endorse you, as a person and for the qualities they have seen – example – submitting reports on time, patience in working with under-privileged children etc.
- Written recommendations are seldom considered: Most companies check references via phone. In cases where contact is difficult to establish, e-mail. Written recommendations are not as credible as having a live discussion with a person and having the opportunity to ask follow up questions.
- Don’t list your references on your resume: This does not solve any purpose and frankly there is no need. Listing references in the resume eats up valuable space that you can use to highlight your work and accomplishments – aspects that actually influence your resume shortlist. References should only be shared when requested. You don’t have to write “references available on request” on your resume, either. This again, does not add any value, and on the contrary can actually send a message that you do not have enough information to include in your resume. You are expected to provide references when requested, so adding this line to your resume is redundant.
- Employers don’t have to stick to your list of references: If they know somebody in any of the organizations you have worked before, they can, without jeopardizing your current job, check on your conduct and skills through their contacts.
- References can be bad or lukewarm too: You cannot assume that all your references can only give you positive feedback. As Alison Green writes at Ask a Manager, it is not illegal for a manager/co-worker to say anything bad about former employees, as long as it is factually accurate. As she explains, “…some companies, in an effort to avoid the headache of nuisance lawsuits, have implemented policies that they’ll only confirm dates of employment and title, rather than commenting on performance. …This is not the law, it is only a corporate policy. …It’s perfectly legal to give a bad reference, as long as it’s honest.”
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