IT Employment

Job hunting: Should you supply references?


Are any of you still asked for references when you're applying for a job? Do you include them on your resume or furnish them at a later date? In my perspective, there could be a number of drawbacks to supplying personal references and not many advantages.

First, it depends on the type of reference. I'm not sure there is an advantage to supplying references separate from your work references. If I'm a hiring manager I really only want to know how you performed at your previous jobs. Personal character and integrity are important, obviously, but they're not as directly demonstrable as a work history. And if the captain of your bowling team is willing to tell me what a great guy you are, so what?

Second, if you do supply references, at what point do you do it? Should you give them to a headhunter, or only to potential employers directly? I would say if you offer your references up too early or to too many people you run the risk of them being contacted too frequently. If the role of being a reference on your resume becomes too time consuming, it may be ultimately detrimental to your relationship with your reference.

Third, it can be difficult to keep up with your references. In today's labor market, people change jobs so frequently that it can be hard to keep up with everyone.

Fourth, can you ever be sure enough that your reference is saying positive things about you? I remember being contacted once about a former co-worker who had put me down as a reference. I didn't mind so much that he didn't ask me first, but my impression of his work wasn't very good. I don't know why he thought I would think otherwise. Our company had a policy where we couldn't give details about a person, only the dates of employment so I didn't have to get into the bad stuff. I probably wouldn't have anyway.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

23 comments
visitorsx3
visitorsx3

I can't edit posts or reply to replies here.

visitorsx3
visitorsx3

Here, we're always forced to put references on job applications - in most cases your application is rejected if there's no refs on it, regardless of the rest of the form / resume. And that's for the lowest paid temp jobs... I always found it weird - because obviously lots of people are just going to put their friends as references and they'll lie over the phone to whoever calls them. If you're previous / current jobs and places of study are listed, then a potential employer already knows where / who to contact to find out more about you anyway. Plus - what if someone tries to discredit you behind your back, but to your face they behave as if they'd be fair and honest. I've had that experience with someone that offered to be a ref for me - I'm glad I didn't use them because a little later they proved that they were in no way concerned about doing the right thing, in a different matter.

morris_s
morris_s

I am still supplying references on my resume. Is it a risk in doing to so or is it not necessary to do so any more. Must i just said by the section of references that they can obtain it from personally.

aroundbygrace
aroundbygrace

Anyway It is abit challenging since mankind is very difficulty to predict.The good person or former employer in the longrun can turn out to an obstacle to your job search.Therefore God have mercy on job hunters.

Sauron
Sauron

For me I dont think they achieve anything. IF you get on well with the person you put as a referee then you wiull get a good reference and lets face it who would put down someone that they didnt get on with? I have never bothered with references when I was considering hiring someone. I think they are like the Dodo still remembered but pretty much dead useless

saberrattler
saberrattler

Yes, when requested. I've been in the job world for about 35 years and I have worked everything from a grocery clerk to an IT Consultant. First of all, I only provide references when asked, I do not include them on my resume. I believe that the resume should speak for itself and if they need additional information, that's what the job interview is for and I can provide references at that time, but again, if requested. So my resume will have a line at the bottom saying, "References availble upon reqeust." Second, I would never include a reference that I did not get permission to use first. To not get permission is rude and presumptous. In fact, most of my references were from employers who said, "If you should need a reference, use my name." Third, I think that a variety of references tells a lot. OK, maybe not the captain of the bowling team, but what is the point of a reference? In my opinion, references are not just about work, but they also speak of your character. Are you someone people trust and play well with others, someone they come to for help and are you someone willing to give of themself? Sometimes, a reference from a long-time friend can be a nice little bonus. Just my opinion. Thanks.

Brandon_Forest
Brandon_Forest

I always add a line at the end of my cover letter, that references are available on request. I consider my references a valuable resource and I make sure recruiters don't contact them as leads.

Old Man on the Mountain
Old Man on the Mountain

A number of sites and employers require not only professional but personal references. Those are rare. I actually asked for a letter from mine (professional). That way I can submit the letters during an interview, and have a better idea what my references will say if/when they are contacted. Desired or not, I like being able to give them something that speaks to my credentials, other than me just saying so. This works for me ...

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

than I've been asked for references. I never supply them unless asked for and I never give mine to pimps. Every time I've supplied a reference to a pimp they've tried to pump me before or after. One offered to put me forward the for the job an ex-colleague was applying for !

Joe_R
Joe_R

I've interviewed and hired quite a number of people in my career, and only on a couple of occasions have I called the references someone provided. I usually look first and foremost for a person who will be a good fit for the company, someone with a great attitude, and someone who appears that he/she will blend into the dynamics of the company. Hire for attitude and train for skills has pretty much been my underlying hiring philosophy, and it's actually worked pretty well. It's easy to train a person who has a great attitude, assuming there are at least some core, underlying skills, but it's nearly impossible to transform a talented and trained person with bad attitude into someone who won't poison the workplace. As such, references don't really do much for me. I can recall only twice when I actually called a person's references. I was unsure about this one person, and I just couldn't get a good feel for what kind of employee he might be. Of course, the reference was glowing (I can't imagine someone would give the name of a person who would give a BAD reference), and I hired him. He actually turned out to be one of my worst mistakes. I'm glad he quit before I had to let him go. The other time was when an ex-convict applied for a position. He gave me the name of his prison supervisor as a reference, and I called to talk about the guy. Naturally, the applicant was very uneasy about admitting and discussing his past and such, but I really liked the guy and wanted to give him a chance. That was the only time I wanted to hire someone, but my boss vetoed my decision. (I'll bet he would have worked out great.)

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

I agree, I have two copies, one with references, that is sent when requested, and one that says references available upon request. I don't care about giving leads to a recruiter, if they are that hard up, I wouldn't be dealing with them anyway. I just don't want my references called by every knob that decides to run through my resume. Many will call your references before initially calling YOU. They use references as a screening process. This inundates your former employers and your references get shorter and weaker, with less though and focus on what you did while working there. I actually like to keep a 'pool' of references and not use the same ones all the time. I have key references I use for going after those big deals and others for run of the mill jobs I think I'll tire of in 6 months to a year. That way I can use people I know will influence the conversation, or will get along with the interviewer better. Plus they don't get overwhelmed with calls that way either.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Give them to a pimp and they'll curse you forever.

jtarrier
jtarrier

Don't forget that an interview is a 2 way thing. You can also ask for references from past employees. Remember that you are gambling your livelihood (and that of your loved ones) on this prospective employer. If the company is reluctant, ask yourself 'Why did the previous person leave?'

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

There are websites that you can visit which will teach you all about the company you are applying for. Some info is provided by former employees, other is gathered from recruiters and other info is just built from basic high school style company interviews. THis in turnlets the applicant know exactly what to act like, exactly what buzz words to use, exactly what NOT to say, exactly what your company may have looked for before etc. In essence, it creates a BS applicant. Most recruiters are on to this and look for keywords used in an interview to tip them off that the person has been prompted. In some cases it shows up immediately as the resumes are formatted to a similar style, as influenced by the website it was farmed from. What I am getting at is that if you base your decisions on meeting only, you can be fooled by a prompted applicant who knows how to hit you rhot buttons just right. In contrast though, to not properly seek teh right fit in an applicant will mean you are hiring based on certs or resume dazzle, which of course is just as detrimental. A thorough read of a resume coupled with reference checks and a long meeting is usually a good start. On the oter hand, I have been hired several times by people who never checked references, I've found work without even providing references, but this is not the norm. Check references carefully and remember they MAY be biased but a good way to weigh the various pieces of info you have, AFTER a personal interview but not before.

JamesRL
JamesRL

I have some great references and they all consider me a friend and want to help me achieve my goal. So everytime I give a reference (usually not until after an interview), I contact them and give them a heads up. I send them the job description, tell them about the interview, even share which examples I used in the interview to give them a chance to use the same ones. It works! James

Old Man on the Mountain
Old Man on the Mountain

It is difficult, but some managers (fortunately for me) will do it for you if you have worked hard for them.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Get a written reference WHILE working for your current employer. I often ask for one during those horrible annual interviews. A manager or supervisor will usually offer a written reference or even a performance evaluation, which is just as good. Then when you are looking for work, you can offer a written reference or performance eval without the need to get a verbal reference.

wyatt
wyatt

It's difficult to get people to write references... many of them have so much work to do, and composing a reference letter is so difficult for them, they just let it fall through the cracks.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

I use people I work with on a day to day basis, whether that is teh manager, owner, CEO, or even a department supervisor. Listing the CEO, when you didn't work closely together is pretty useless too. I always choose a reference that is relevant to my work day. As for a bowling buddy, personal references can be just as important as work, but I still see your point.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

In teh case of a contractor, there should be no issue getting a written reference once the job is completed. Any employer, even a temp one, should realize this, if not they aren't worth working with or offering as a reference anyway. IN the case of trusting what people will say, that's EXACTLY why you should get a written copy BEFORE moving on. After you leave you could be degraded to others by your former employer if he/she is malicious and pissy. Case in point, before I left my last position, I had one of the product Business Development Managers write me a nice letter, we worked closely together and he knew my work habits/abilities. Once I left, then successfully sued the company ($$$), the staff were warned not to converse with me, they were asked to sign contracts in that they wouldn't conduct business with me or anything else (gotta love paranoid Frenchies). But it doesn't matter one bit, I already had a stellar review in writing. Reasons for not offering current contact info? "I am not at liberty to discuss it due to legal issues", end of story. It's in writing already.

bags4440
bags4440

I have found that it isn't necessarily what the reference is, but who they offer as a reference. Your bowling buddy isn't worth much, but the head of a former client or department chair from your former employer goes a long way in saying that you're not afraid of what someone will say about your actual work.

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

Can one approach his/her direct supervisor and ask for one, or will that scare the supervisor into thinking the contractor is looking to bail on them before the contract is up? Also, what if one doesn't trust the people he/she works for and fears they may badmouth hi/her?

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