IT Employment

The top five reasons to check your own references

Many people offer prospective employers references thinking they'll work out fine. But will your references work for you as you want?

Many people offer prospective employers references thinking they'll work out fine. But will your references work for you as you want?

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Here are some good tips from Allison & Taylor, Inc., a reference checking and reference consulting company:

  1. The company's comment policy may not be what you think it is. A countless number of our clients confidently say, "They won't tell you anything, it's against policy." Many people assume that an employer can't or won't say anything, and are unpleasantly surprised to find out this is not the case. Employers frequently say unflattering things about former employees.
  2. Your reference may not be saying what you expect. A lukewarm reference can be just as damaging as a negative one. If your reference is anything less than glowing, they are damaging your chances of landing that job, not helping it. You need to know that that person is doing everything possible to make a positive impression for you. Otherwise, it's time to rethink your references.
  3. Your information may not match the HR records. In many instances, we find that the employer has different employment dates, position title, or supervisor listed than what the employee has presented. Don't let this type of discrepancy suggest that you are being less than truthful about your former position's title or responsibilities.
  4. You may have been omitted from the HR records entirely. This happens more often than you might think, especially in the case of mergers, where not all records make the transfer into a new system. It's also frequently the case with the self-employed; many companies do not hold records for a contractor in their HR system. It's not a good thing when an employer calls and is told that there is no record of you ever having worked for their company.
  5. Your reference contact may no longer work for the company. Many job-seekers make the mistake of not staying in close contact with the person they intend to use for a reference. Be sure that that person is still there to respond to inquiries. If they're no longer there, a reference checker may be shuffled though the system and end up with someone who won't cast you in such a positive light.

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.

6 comments
cgard52
cgard52

I would like to know what is the best way to check for references

larrie_jr
larrie_jr

I had counted on the weight of a reference (Dr.) and hadn't checked on him for almost a year... he died.

reisen55
reisen55

1. Get them in writing whenever possible. I had a superb fight with one of my former employers, turns out a lawyer wanted to write a wonderful reference and HR turned that down - NO we can only confirm dates of employment and satisfactory discharge, THANK YOU. So, she took them on!!!! Got the clearance and wrote a great letter, and had her colleague sign it too. Written cannot be retracted and distributed easily. 2. Network existing references - I always schmooze with my clients and selected past references, do not neglect to keep in an email chain, news of your career, etc. Always sound positive and their words will reflect that. Also, WARN them if a reference check is coming in. 3. Linkedin.com can have references added from your colleagues, and I include this on my email signature so that anybody can see not only my career path but also commendations for good work done. 4. Keep a reference list too, you'll gain some and lose others over time. Carry it with you on interviews for employment apps often ask for reference data. While I am sparing here, if it is a JOB YOU REALLY WANT, carry the list and fill in the data and then warn your group that they may receive a call or two.

srmcevoy
srmcevoy

I have a friend who is an HR manager and I have had him check on a few occasions. The other option is to ask for letters of reference, especially if supervisors are moving on. You can also have managers create references on LinkedIN. http://www.linkedin.com/in/srmcevoy

unhappyuser
unhappyuser

I have always made sure my references were top notch. I didn't want to take the chance that I could lose a prospective job because of a reference. I was told by a past employer that one reference was so good it was the main reason I got the job! I have also been on the other end - checking references. There was one applicant that looked good on paper. He gave only two references (we had asked for three), the first never returned my calls and the third was less than lukewarm. He did not get the job. References are VERY important. They can be the icing on your cake and get you that needed job. In today's economic environment it's extremely important to have everything correct. EMD

JamesRL
JamesRL

When I was laid off in 2002 (by a friend), I took advantage of the fact we were friends to use his reference to best effect. Not only did I call him when I knew he would be getting a reference call, I also briefed him on the interview - with the idea that they would be confirming some of the things I raised as accomplishements at my previous employer - I would tell him what the question was and what my answer was. I had also sent him the job description from the ad. This was a service to him, because it allowed him to give a good reference, and gave him the chance to prepare -much better than doing it cold. James

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