Reference checks are an essential factor in the recruitment process and at JP Smith we conduct a minimum of three professional reference checks before an offer is made. There is a certain etiquette that can be expected of those conducting reference checks; however you need to be aware of all information that can be sourced regarding your work history.
There are some dangerous assumptions that candidates tend to make:
Assumption # 1: Only people I list on my resume will be contacted.
Yes, it is best practice for employers to only contact those people you nominate and that they tell you before making that contact. At JP Smith we follow the best practice approach and if we need to go beyond your provided references, we endeavour to consult with you on this.
Some potential employers however; may have a tendency to contact people within their social network that you have previously worked for regardless of whether they are your nominated referee. Depending on what you have signed as part of your application process, this may or may not be acceptable.
Correction: If you are concerned about confidentiality, make it clear in your cover letter and the ‘Referees’ section of your resume that you wish to be advised before referees are contacted. The positive way to frame this is that you would like to do your referees the courtesy of letting them know to expect a call. Make it particularly clear if one of the referees is your current employer and you have not advised them that you are seeking alternative employment!
Assumption # 2: Contrary to what your mother may have said, not everyone likes you.
We have seen frequent instances where a candidate has listed a referee without first checking with the referee that they are prepared to provide a reference check and that they will provide good feedback. Don’t assume that because you think you did a good job, your Manager thinks the same.
Correction: Always check that a person is willing to be a referee and that they will provide objective and fair feedback on your performance.
Assumption # 3: My referee liked me, so they will only say the good things.
A good referee will give balanced and objective feedback on your performance and this may include some areas of weakness. There is also a risk that it will include a large number of weaknesses!
A good reference will focus on performance in the role, position responsibilities, how well you work with others, how you react to stressful situations, why you left the role and lot of other areas.
Correction: It is important that in interview you are honest regarding any potential ‘red flags’ that may arise through reference checking. If you are honest and upfront about an issue it reflects more positively on you than if a potential employer has to discover it in reference checks.
Assumption # 4: Written references are better than verbal references.
Anyone can doctor their own reference check letters (and unfortunately many have). Because of this, a good recruiter will ask you for phone contact details of your referees to talk with them directly.
Correction: You need to be prepared in interview to provide contact details for at least 3 relevant and substantial referees.