We have all done it. Listed people you know and like, as personal and professional references. We never really stop to question what they will say to our prospective employers. Even if we did discuss this with them, can you count on them to speak only praise when something as important as a job is on the line?
I know that a lot of hard work that goes into landing a Job. The last thing you want is to miss an opportunity for a great job because of a negative or even neutral reference. After, checking references on thousands of prospects, you would be surprised at what type of information I got. In this job market employers can choose the best of the best. A bad or even a neutral reference can shoot you down in just a few seconds.
Take for example Joe, he nailed the interview and the hiring manager really like him. Because the manager really liked Joe, he only checked the first reference. It was a great reference and he offered Joe the job. But, company policy dictated that at least 3 references be checked on each candidate. So, in no time the manager was back on the phone checking the next two people on Joe’s reference list. The next reference checked was great. The third reference for Joe was not good. Joe’s coworker of 18 years focused on a two-three month period that Joe was going through a crisis at home. The coworker made several comments about Joe missing a few more days he should have and that he seemed unhappy while doing his daily tasks.
You may be thinking, well Joe was going through a bad time in his life and it’s understandable that he was struggling. Or two out of the three references were good, shouldn’t that make a difference? In this case and in most cases, two out of three is not good enough. Employers have many qualified candidates to choose from. There is no reason to take a chance on an employee with even one bad or neutral reference out of three or even five.
In a reference situation, the answers are taken on face value. The hiring manager did not ask for details and the co-worker did not tell. As a result company rescinded the job offer based on the information from the third reference. Had Joe taken the time to question his co-worker on what he would say, he would be working today.
It is always good to have a heart to heart to chat with anyone you put on your reference list. Take a few minutes and ask what they would say to your prospective employers. If you have any doubt that they may say anything short of total praise, replace them with someone who will sing your praises. You could also share Joe’s story and how one bad reference lost him is job, before he even started.