There seem to be a number of factors involved in landing the job. From a good cover letter and resume, to dressing the part for the interview, shaking hands and answering the questions without breaking a sweat, you nailed it all and nothing can stop you from landing your dream job. Oh wait, of course there is. One of the most often overlooked parts of an interview – References.
Yes, Employers Call References
Applicants seem to be under the impression that reference checks are a thing of the past and are no longer needed. This is a serious mistake. Employers still view reference checks as a vital part of the hiring process. Employers use reference checks to verify much of the information you presented to them in the interview. Upon calling references, employers can verify that you possess a degree or diploma, are indeed the hardworking, intelligent person you say you are, and have not acted unprofessionally in your previous jobs.
A conversation with a reference can provide employers some insight into an applicant’s personality as well. Some applicants are hired, only for the employer to find out they act differently than in the interview. References can provide some insight into your day-to-day mindset and if and how it affects the work environment and other employees.
References can be any one of a wide range of people. They can be a past co-worker, supervisor, client or customer. They can sometimes even be personal acquaintances. Choosing the right ones can be the difference between getting hired and continuing your job search.
When selecting references, you want to choose those who will be able to distinguish you from other candidates. You want people that can comment positively on your work habits, quality of work, promptness and overall achievement in that job, as well as your personal qualities such as your sense of humor, how seriously you took the job or how well you dealt with stress.
Signs of Bad References
Some applicants disregard references so much that it is fairly obvious to the hiring manager that the applicant is a "bad apple." Omitting all superiors from references is one obvious sign that this applicant could be trouble in the future. They could be trying to hide past incidents of unfavorable departures or just bad work ethic.
Another easy one to detect is mistakes or omissions of contact information of references. For example, an incorrect telephone number, listing cell phones numbers only, or just listing names without job titles or contact information. Most companies are aware of these tactics and won’t fall for them.
The final sign of a bad reference is when a reference seems surprised to be listed as a reference. If the reference is surprised to be a reference, they probably shouldn’t make your list. This point also serves as an introduction to the next section.
Call Your References
You should always call the people on your list to let them know that you are using them as references. This will help you avoid the "sign of a bad reference" noted above. Calling them not only keeps you in touch with your reference, but also allows you to get a feel as to whether the reference will portray you in a positive light to the employer. You might want to try prepping the reference a little. You should share with them the company, the job title, and skills and duties. This will help them draw parallels with some of the things you did in their organization, and enable them to reassure the employer that you can add value in your new position.