Business references: three strikes and you’re out


I recently interviewed a bright, engaging individual with a great work history who seemed to be a perfect match for a leadership role with one of my client companies.  My client interviewed him and thought the same.

Then we checked his references.  There were no negative references.  Even so, this seemingly qualified candidate self-sabotaged through the reference-checking step and lost the prospective job.

  • It was clear that the people listed as references had not be contacted or briefed in advance by the candidate.  One reference said that by company policy he couldn’t provide a reference and redirected us to HR.  Another person said that he didn’t remember working with anyone by this name.  STRIKE ONE!
  • A third reference we attempted to reach was not available at the phone number provided.  Clearly, the contact information was outdated.  STRIKE TWO!
  • We left voicemail messages for several other references with no response.  We notified the candidate of this and encouraged him to express to his colleagues that this was important and legitimate, urging them to return our calls quickly.  As far as we can tell, he took no such initiative.  STRIKE THREE!

Identifying and facilitating the process of your business references is an active step in interviewing for you as a candidate.  It’s not a passive situation!

  • It’s your job to ask each person if they are willing and able (by company policy) to provide a reference on your behalf.  Provide them with a copy of your resume so that their memory of your work is suitably fresh.
  • It’s your job to be sure that you have at least two ways to contact each reference ~ and the contact information stays current.
  • It’s your job to notify your references when you know that a prospective employer or employer’s agent will be initiating contact.

Taking a proactive approach with those recommending your work will help to ensure that this step in screening and interviewing is a home run!

Republished with permission. Originally published by Elyse on her recruiting blog in 2012.

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