The Reference Check Removes One in Five Job Candidates From Consideration

Your resume may get your foot in the door at a company and a strong interview can advance you to the next step in the hiring process, but before you land your next position, chances are the hiring manager will perform a reference check. and this step in the hiring process may be the biggest hurdle of all.

According to a recent survey of 1,000+ senior managers developed by OfficeTeam, a staffing service specializing in the placement of administrative professionals, reference checks can catapult a candidate to the winner's circle or instigate their demise.

Managers interviewed claimed they remove more than one in five candidates from consideration after speaking to their professional contacts. When it comes to what hiring managers are looking for when speaking to references, more than a third said they are most interested in getting input on an applicant's past job duties and experience. Learning about the individual's strengths and weaknesses came in second.

Here's the breakdown on the important information hiring managers hope to receive when speaking to an applicant's job references.

Description of past job duties and experience


A view into the applicant's strengths and weaknesses


Confirmation of job title and dates of employment


Description of workplace accomplishments


A sense of the applicant's preferred work culture


Other/don't know



"When hiring managers narrow the field to a few potential candidates, the reference check often becomes the deciding factor," said OfficeTeam executive director Robert Hosking. "To distinguish themselves from the competition, job seekers should assemble a solid list of contacts who can persuasively communicate their qualifications and professional attributes."

OfficeTeam offers five tips for creating a reference list that works in your favor:

  1. Choose wisely. Select individuals who can discuss your abilities and experience that directly relate to the position, not just those with the most impressive job titles. Offer a mix of contacts who can address different aspects of your background; for example, a former peer may be able to describe your interpersonal skills, while a past direct report can talk about your management style.
  2. Check in beforehand. Always call potential references first to gain their permission and evaluate their eagerness to serve as a contact. Be sure to give all references a copy of your resume, the job description and the name of the person who will likely call.
  3. Be prepared. Provide clear contact information for your references, including their names, titles, daytime phone numbers and e-mail addresses. Also, offer a brief explanation of the nature of your relationship with each individual. Consider supplying more references than are requested, so you won't miss out on the job offer if the hiring manager can't get in touch with one of your contacts.
  4. Think outside the box. To learn more about potential hires, it's not uncommon for employers to seek out additional contacts, either online or through their own networks, who can serve as a reference. Since you never know who a hiring manager might reach out to, you should not only remain on good terms with your past supervisors and colleagues, if possible, but also be selective about who's in your online network on sites such as LinkedIn.
  5. Give thanks. Express your gratitude to those who agree to serve as references, even if they aren't contacted by employers. Keep them updated on your job search progress and offer to return the favor by providing a recommendation should they need one.

Another tip I recommend regarding references is to do an audit of your online presence. Type your name in quotes into a search engine and review the information about you online. Check for accuracy and update any incomplete or incorrect information when possible. Researching candidates online before even calling their references has become a more common practice, so be sure your online presence is up to date and squeaky clean.

Next:Employment Reference Checks: What You Need to Know >>

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