One of the questions posed during this week’s Ask the Coach call had to do with job references: do you provide them when you first submit your resume or express interest in a position?
Randy’s response was a firm and resounding “No!” Do not provide the references until someone asks for them, and even then be judicious.
Whether you are dealing with an internal hiring manager or an outside recruiter, be sure to ask what types of references they want. Normally, they ask for managers, subordinates, and a few peers to get a 360-degree view of the candidate. When determining which references to provide, remember that there are two kinds of reference checks that are typically performed:
1. Fact – did you do exactly what you said you did? This will include information about titles, salary, and skill set, and also about your accomplishments. If you embellished your achievements, this is where you will be found out.
2. Fit – what’s your style? Part of the recruiter’s job is to determine if you are a good fit for the company’s culture. They will ask your references about your ability to work as part of a team, your temperament, and about other character traits that determine cultural fit.
If you are not sure about your references, you want to mitigate the “surprise” factor. Tell the recruiter that you had a difference of opinion, or a difference in approach to a problem. Be frank and be honest. Randy noted that in his recruiting practice, he found that references often reveal more about themselves than about the candidates.
Be sure to give as many references as have been requested – no more, and no less. Also be sure to prepare your references and give them a “heads up” to receive a phone call or email. Also be sure to tell your references what position you are applying for, what qualifications are expected, and, if you can, what types of questions or specifics the recruiter or hiring manager may ask about. You want to be judicious about using your references because you don’t want to burn them out with overuse, particularly if you prep them and they never get called.
You may also want to ask if the recruiter if they are using a third-party or independent agency for a background check. It’s become common practice to review a candidate’s background for a criminal record or financial problems, although there are new laws in some states that limit what types of financial information can be used in hiring decisions.
Your best approach to providing references is to provide what you are asked for and no more. Be honest with both the recruiter and your references. And try to make sure everyone knows what to expect.