The job is yours, you just know it. You nailed the third and final interview and the hiring manager left you with: “Congratulations! We think you’re a perfect fit. We just have to check your references.” It’s time to break out the champagne, right? Wrong. Glowing references can clinch the job, but poor references can send you packing.
When considering your references, choose wisely and avoid this list of “Least Wanted”:
The Silent Killer–Some organizations prohibit employees from speaking about former colleagues, only allowing them to divulge dates of employment. A tight-lipped reference could make a prospective employer suspicious and kill your chances of getting the job.
The Pal–Your mom or boyfriend may think you’re great at your job, but hiring managers only want to talk to people who have worked with you.
The Escape Artist–When the hiring manager contacts this reference, the person is MIA. The phone and email are incorrect, the person left the company years ago, or is taking an extended vacation. It isn’t an employer’s duty to put out a search team to find your reference.
The Non-believer–You’re convinced a former manager thinks you’re a star, but in reality she may think your work is just so-so and feels compelled to share these tepid impressions with a hiring manager. You may also have a reference who can give a rave review, but his quiet voice, slow speech and unenthusiastic manner give the caller the impression that he was uninspired by your work.
The Scatterbrain– Some references may feel like they are the victim of a surprise attack because they weren’t expecting a call and didn’t prepare. “Who are you calling about?” They may have trouble remembering you, the exact dates of your employment or the specifics of your job. Worse yet, they may even delete the message if they don’t know who’s calling.
The Perfectionist–This person may think you did a fine job, but hey, nobody’s perfect! She may spend more time focusing on the one area where you could improve rather than your 20 strengths.
The Elitist–You worked directly for your manager, but you gave the VP as a reference (your manager’s supervisor’s manager). The VP wasn’t privy to your day-to-day responsibilities and can’t speak about them (and this may be another case of “Who are you calling about?”).
Of course, there is no way to know if your references are members of the Least Wanted list unless you contact them. Before giving a name to prospective employers, get in touch with them yourself. It is okay, wise even, to vet your references. Refresh their memory about who you are, let them know about the job you’re after and talk to them about which skills and experience you would like highlighted. They will appreciate the heads up and you will be rewarded for your efforts when you get the call that you got the job.Job search advice | References