Many people offer prospective employers references thinking they'll work out fine. But will your references work for you as you want?
Here are some good tips from Allison & Taylor, Inc., a reference checking and reference consulting company:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Toni Bowers is the former 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.