Employment reference checks happen for four main reasons:
1. References Are the Only Way to Get Some Information
Sometimes, the only way to get information about a candidate is to ask other people.
An example would be to gain insight into how they work with others. Former bosses and co-workers can help provide general and specific information about a candidate’s interpersonal skills and style.
2. To Confirm Information
Sometimes, employers want to double-check what a candidate has told them.
An example would be verifying someone’s explanation of why they left their job. Hearing other people’s version of a departure can confirm what they’ve been told or give more perspective about the event.
3. To Disqualify Candidates
When I did employment reference checks, I always asked these two questions:
- Would you rehire this person? If yes, why? If no, why not?
- Is there anything I should have asked you about that I haven’t?
Every once in a while, the answer to one of those questions turned out to be a deal killer.
4. To Predict Future Job Performance
While research says employers use references for this, I relied on resume reviews and behavior-based interviews to predict performance.
I would love to hear what others have to say about this in the Comments below.
95% of Employers Always Check References
Research findings also show that over 95% of employers always check references. Thus, be sure your references:
1. Will verify any information you have given to future employers.
2. Understand the job you have applied for well enough to speak to your fit. Send them a bulleted executive summary, plus the full job posting. Give them time to read it. Then call them to talk about the job, and your fit, before they take the reference call.
3. Won’t share disqualifying information about you. Don’t offer people who don’t like you. However, if your future employer insists on talking to someone, know that employers don’t like to give bad references.
Prepare, Then Relax
As you can see, it pays to understand the reasons for reference checks and prepare for them. Once you do, relax. You will be ahead of most of the competition.
Updated April 2019
© 2010 – 2019, Donna Svei. All rights reserved.
Donna Svei, an executive resume writer and former C-level executive, retained search consultant, and CPA, writes all of AvidCareerist’s posts. She has written for and been quoted by leading business, general, and career media outlets, including Forbes, Mashable, Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Lifehacker, Ask.com, Social Media Today, IT World, SmartBrief, Payscale, Business News Daily, and the Muse. Let her background and experience inform your job search strategy and decision making.