As recruiters, you may work directly with jobseekers to perfect their résumés and help them stand out among a sea of applicants. Besides making sure the résumé is flawless, you should also work with candidates to make sure they have a solid reference list—otherwise, the candidate runs the risk of being passed over.
In a new survey from global staffing firm Accountemps, senior managers reported they remove approximately one in three candidates (34%) from consideration for a position with their company after checking their references.
Why References Matter to Employers
Reference checks help employers get a stronger sense of whether a candidate will be a good fit, both in terms of skills and experience, as well as within the workplace culture. Specifically, senior managers surveyed said they were most interested in getting a view of the applicant’s strengths and weaknesses and a description of their past job responsibilities and work experience.
“Reference checks carry as much weight as any other point in the hiring process, and a misstep here can put you back at square one,” says Michael Steinitz, Executive Director of Accountemps—in a press release. “Too often, this step is an afterthought, but candidates need to treat it with care and practice proper etiquette. If a reference is caught off guard by a hiring manager’s call, it could impact the conversation or, worse, halt your candidacy altogether.”
Steinitz offers this advice to candidates: “Provide references with an up-to-date résumé and job description, and make sure they’re able to speak directly to how you would make a great fit for the open position. Avoid potential red flags by discussing the strengths you offer and how you’re working to improve your weaknesses. Do your part to ensure the process goes smoothly—other candidates are.”
4 Tips for Better References
Recruiters can relay the following four tips—provided by Steinitz—to candidates to help them boost their references list.
- Do your homework. Invest as much care in choosing your references as you put into polishing your résumé. Consider who could best speak to your abilities for the specific opportunity and whether their company policy would restrict them from doing so.
- Ask first. Don’t let the hiring manager surprise your contacts—confirm their interest and availability to serve as a reference for you. If they agree, keep them up to date on the hiring process and let them know when to expect a call.
- Be proactive. Don’t wait until a prospective employer asks you to provide a reference list. Early in the process, reach out to references and let them know you’re pursuing a new opportunity. The more prepared you are, the more effective they can be.
- Say ‘thank you.’ Follow up by sending a note to let those who spoke to the hiring manager know how much you appreciate their time and endorsement. When possible, return the favor; your reference may need you to speak to their abilities in the future.