About Those References: What You May Not Know

About those references

Years back an applicant came to us after a failed job search. She had fantastic clerical skills, and we loved her from the start. When we checked her references, we finally found out what was keeping her from being hired: One of her references was dissing her. (The other references were all glowing.)

When we told the applicant about the poor reference, she was devastated. It turned out the bad reference was from a former boss who was angry that the applicant had left her job because she moved! Our gut instincts told us she would be great, and we sent her out on a temporary assignment that became a permanent job. A happy ending, but one that could have been very unhappy for this gal if she had never found out someone was sabotaging her job search.

You can find some good tips on how to choose good references in articles like this one, but here I am going to tell you what you may not know about references from the other side of the desk.

1)      Spill the beans about anything negative that may turn up in a reference check. It is a bad idea to try to hide significant information from a potential employer. A human resources department may have strict rules about what can be shared with a previous employee, but former supervisors may speak more candidly. For our purposes as a staffing agency, the more we know about what to expect from these reference checks, the better. Don’t try to hide your reasons for leaving previous employers. We’re much more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt if you are honest up front.

2)      Don’t underestimate the power of the informal grapevine. We’ve been in St. Louis for a long, long time and know many people here. If we know someone in the company you’ve left who might be able to tell me more about you, we will pick up the phone and pick that person’s brain. (All the more reason to be sure you take the high road when leaving a company, regardless of how awful things were or how badly you were treated.) The world is very small at the most inconvenient times.

3)      Bonny: I’d like a third one from you!

What’s your experience with references? Have you ever been asked to give a reference for someone you can’t recommend? Leave us a comment below.