HR Specialist

Job Search Tip: Prep Your References for a Reference Check

In Pre/Post Employment Services on September 2, 2009 at 10:31 am

Prepping your references can make all the difference in whether you get the job you want or not. A positive reference check is a priority in the hiring decisions of many employers. Make sure your references are prepared to respond favorably when the potential employer calls for a reference check.

In a client company, we have eliminated the competition and settled upon two candidates for the job. Both are superficially well-qualified. However, reference checks and background checks are critical.

The primary candidate had the field to herself until it took me three weeks to check her references. The second candidate came to our attention during this reference check time.

What did the primary candidate do wrong? She included no reference phone numbers on her application nor on her resume. Her listed references were coworkers, not bosses, so we had to dig for the numbers of her former supervisors. Indeed, we had to dig for the numbers of her listed references. Several references never returned calls over two weeks.

I finally had to loop the candidate in to get her help to contact the references. She should have been on this before I started calling to check the references. Her references should have known that I would call.

They should have been informed about how important their participation was in whether the candidate was offered the job. The reference checks and their preparation should have been a priority for the candidate.

Instead, she let another candidate get her foot in the door and she may lose her stated dream job. I can’t predict how this selection will end, but, the primary candidate truly blew it.

Prep your references. Make sure they know the potential employer will be calling. These are the types of questions the potential employer will ask.

Make sure your references are ready to answer these questions – in a timely, optimistic, positive, honest, open manner. Tell your references to please chat up your strengths. They can make all the difference in whether you get your dream job.


By Susan M. Heathfield,


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