“References are available upon request.” That’s sort of akin to starting a cover letter by saying “I saw your ad online and am submitting my resume for your review.”
Um, I got that. Now tell me something I don’t know.
Reference checks are a funny ritual. If you are interviewing and supply references to a potential new boss, one would think that it’s an automatically biased process in your favor. Although 90% of the time this does end up to be true, there are times when references don’t check out.
In addition to the references that YOU supply, as the job seeker (candidate), hiring managers and recruiters often engage in a little digging of their own, networking with people they know who may have worked with you at one time or another.
I call these types of references “blind.” They can be most damaging and unfortunately you, as the candidate, don’t have much control over this process.
That said, sometimes co-workers just don’t get along and that could trigger a negative reference. A good hiring manager can read between the lines, understanding that perhaps this is a reflection of something more personal vs. professional. But, if the negative feedback is a true reflection of a fundamental flaw in your work ethic, that could be an indication that you would not be a good fit for the position at hand. And finally, if your blind reference suggests that you have lied – for example, by saying you resigned from a position when you were actually fired —that’s a definite deal breaker. The one thing you want to make sure to do when you interview is to always, ALWAYS tell the truth.
In terms of providing references, I recommend putting together a list of five or six. The list should include at least one of the following:
- A former boss
- Someone you have managed (if you are in management)
- A former co-worker
- A client you have worked with or external vendor you have managed (if applicable)
Three to four references is usually enough but you should have an extra one or two in your pocket in case one of your references is traveling or unavailable.
One final note: Make sure you check with the folks you would like to use as references BEFORE adding them to your list AND call them to give them the heads up when someone is about to reach out. The last thing you want to do is potentially put someone on the spot. And, you want to make sure they are prepared to receive a call.