April 26, 2022    |    By

When it comes to crafting a resume, it’s a commonly accepted practice to list a few references. The point of listing references on your resume is to provide potential employers with a way to follow up with people who can validate your skills and abilities.

According to a study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), T87% of employers perform reference checks as part of their hiring process.

Although not every employer will check your references, the majority will. Considering the investment that they are going to make in hiring you, you should assume they will contact your references.

As such, it’s crucial that you provide high-quality references that will help you secure the job.

When Do Employers Start Reaching Out To References?

When an employer decides to call a candidate’s references, it’s usually during the final stages of the hiring process. By this point, the employer has already reviewed the applicant’s resume and cover letter, conducted a preliminary interview, and possibly even a second or third interview.

The purpose of calling references is to obtain more information about the applicant and help make a final decision about whether to offer the job. If the employer is calling your references, it likely means that you’re one of the final candidates.

What Employers Want To Know During Reference Checks

It’s essential that you know what employers are looking for from a reference. After all, you’ll want to make sure that the references you list can provide the information that the employer will ask for.

With that in mind, the following are a few key reasons why a prospective employer will reach out to your references:

Assessment Of Applicant’s Skills

One of the main reasons that employers will call your references is to get an idea of your skills and abilities. They will want to know about everything from your work ethic to your technical skills. Your references can provide the recruiter with an overview of how you performed in your previous roles.

If you have a reference who is currently or has recently been employed in a similar role to the one you are applying for, that reference can be especially helpful in providing context.

Perform Fact Checks

Reference checks are also a way for employers to verify the information that you have provided on your resume. This information includes your work history, education, and any skills you listed.

If any of the details are inaccurate, your references may contradict you by accident. Remember that lying on your resume can have negative consequences. It’s best to be honest and transparent from the start.

Evaluate How You Are As An Employee

In addition to assessing your skills and abilities, employers will also want to know what it is like to work with you. They will want to know about your interpersonal skills and how well you work in a team.

Your references can provide the employer with an idea of what it would be like to have you on their team and how you will fit with their corporate culture.

Gather Additional Information About The Candidate

When an employer reaches out to a reference, they are typically looking for more information about the applicant to make a final decision about whether or not to offer them the job.

In addition to cross-checking the information you’ve provided and getting an idea about your work ethic, they may ask about other details as well.

For example, some employers will ask why you left your previous job, how long you worked there, and more.

What A Reference Can And Cannot Say

When an employer contacts a reference, they are often looking for additional reasons to hire the candidate – or for reasons not to hire them. As such, references can play a key role in getting a job offer.

However, there are certain things that references are not allowed to say. For example, references cannot give their opinion on the applicant’s character or provide information that could be used to discriminate against the applicant.
Additionally, references are sometimes bound by non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) which prohibit them from disclosing certain information about the applicant.

Questions For References

Knowing what a hiring manager might ask is helpful when you’re asking someone to be a reference. They may want to know what they’ll be asked before they feel comfortable agreeing to be your reference.

The reference might also want to prepare themselves for certain questions so that they don’t get caught off guard.
Keeping that in mind, the following are some of the common questions a hiring manager may ask a reference:

  • How do you know the candidate?

  • How long have you known the candidate?

  • Is the candidate still working for you? If not, when did they leave?

  • How does the candidate conduct themselves in the workplace?

  • What do you think are their strengths and weaknesses?

  • How do you think this candidate would perform in the role?

  • Does this candidate work well in a team?

  • Does this candidate work well independently?

  • Is the candidate proficient in the skills required for this position?

  • Why do you think I should hire this candidate?

  • Would you hire this candidate again if you had the chance?

What Happens If You Don’t Have Any Job References?

You should always have references listed on your resume. However, you may not always have access to professional references. For instance, maybe your former references are no longer available.

Or maybe you don’t have an extensive work history (for example, if you are a recent graduate) and simply haven’t worked enough to have references.

If this is the case, you can ask for personal references instead. These can be friends, family members, or anyone else who can attest to your skills and work ethic. Another option is to reach out to former employers, colleagues, or professors who would be willing to serve as a reference for you.

Finally, you can also look into joining professional organizations or networking groups, which can help you build up a list of references.

Does A Reference Check Always Lead To A Job Offer?

A reference check is not an indicator of an imminent job offer. The hiring team will consider the entire interview process when making a decision about who to hire, and not just the reference check.

However, if an employer is checking your references, it means that they are, at the very least, strongly considering you as an option.

It’s worth noting that if the references you provide are not able to speak highly of your skills and qualifications, it could influence the hiring team’s decision. Therefore, it’s important to choose your references wisely and make sure you have a good relationship with them so they can speak positively about you.

Is It Possible To Be Rejected After A Reference Check?

While a positive reference check can definitely help your chances of getting hired, there are a few other factors that the hiring team will consider. The reference check isn’t the only factor that employers consider during the hiring process.

The following are some of the reasons why you might get rejected despite having strong references:

  • The employer found a better candidate for the job

  • The company decided to go a different direction

  • The employer is not convinced that you have the skills or experience required for the job

Gain A Network Of Positive References To Help You Land The Job

A list of references is essential when applying for jobs. As such, it’s vital that you build a strong network of references that can help you land the job you want.

When choosing your references, make sure you select people who can speak positively about your skills and qualifications. If you don’t have any professional references, reach out to personal references, colleagues, or professors who would be willing to serve as a reference for you.

Interested in learning more information about the job hunting process? Look here for more related articles.

Make a great first impression at your next job interview.

This blog post is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is created between the author and reader of this blog post, and its content should not be relied upon as legal advice. Readers are urged to consult legal counsel when seeking legal advice.