There is nothing more aggravating than working with what seems to be a super-star candidate and then not being able to get a single reference call returned on the individual. There are endless factors that could contribute to why this is so, but from an employer standpoint, it’s a much better bet to hire the individual with references – and an even better bet to hire the individual with two or more glowing references. Of course, this in not always possible, but it is much preferred. And when in competition for a job, it’s important for the candidate to know this could be what gives them the upper hand in landing that next golden opportunity.
Here’s some things to keep in mind when giving references:
· Always more impressive to speak with a supervisory reference than a colleague – somebody whose neck was on the line if the candidate didn’t do the job well.
· If possible, give references from several employment experiences to give a broad picture to the hiring company. It’s also nice to have references spanning many years, so the company knows that the candidate’s behavior / work personality have remained steady.
· A past performance review, or a letter of reference from a past supervisor on letterhead and signed, would be of interest if phone contact with a past supervisor is not possible. It is very impressive when someone comes in with letters of reference from all of their previous employers in a booklet – this doesn’t happen often, but if the candidates has it, it’s worth showing off.
· Candidate should make first contact with the reference especially if they haven’t spoken with them recently – a bad reception or a non-returned call reflects poorly on the candidate. Sometimes references want to hear from the candidate first to make sure they’re talking to someone the candidate gave their blessing to.
· Incomplete information, such as simply a name and company with no phone number won’t be well received. If the company has to ask for something that is obvious to provide, or if they have to chase down a number or contact, this reflects poorly on the candidate. Providing an extension number is a good practice – having to go through the automated messaging system gives the impression the candidate didn’t do the preliminary work to put their references in order.
· If asked for references on the spot and the candidate happens to not have them, the most impressive way to move forward is to ask for an email to send them to, and follow thru by sending references as soon as possible.
· The harder it is to get a reference from a candidate, the harder the company will try to get a reference; gives the impression the candidate is not being open about past experiences. A candidate should expect this if planning to go in empty handed as far as references, and should have good supporting documentation such as performance reviews, pay stubs, a phone number for HR if no other reference, reference letters, etc. in order to show accuracy in title, dates of employment, pay rate, and that they did the job well.
· Some companies have very thorough reference policies – a candidate helping versus hindering in this process, and understanding the policy, will be greatly appreciated. Warming up the references, providing accurate and thorough information, and following through with any requests should more than suffice.