You have survived and triumphed during the many interviews you had to attend and are now a finalist candidate! What’s next?
Before the company decides to offer you the job, they will probably ask for references.
Reference checking typically takes place towards the end of the interview process just before an offer is made. Sometimes, reference checking can happen earlier depending on the recruiter and the recruitment cycle.
In any job search process, a key thing that needs to be done is to prepare and think about your referees. A well-intentioned but poorly prepared reference can do more harm than good.
What is the purpose of reference checking?
To the potential employer, it provides some comfort that the candidate is authentic. He is who he says he is. With the increasing incidence of candidates falsifying their credentials and embellishing on their experience and achievements, some employers require significant background checks, including academic credentials and employment verification.
Personal references will provide a report that is congruent to the stories that the candidate has been telling. A skilled reference checker will ask questions that will lead the referee to share examples and give specifics.
Typical reference check questions include:
- What was his role/position when you worked together?
- How long did he work in that position?
- Why is he leaving (or has left) the organization?
- What responsibilities did he have?
- Describe his key competencies and strengths
- Describe his developmental needs
- How did he perform in his role? How would you describe his performance?
- Provide an example of his achievement
- Would you employ (want to work with) him again?
Who can be your referees?
Recruiters will ask that your referees be made up of superiors (direct manager, team lead, project supervisor), peers or colleagues, clients, vendors, business partners, and subordinates. These are people who worked with you in a professional capacity. So no relatives, school friends or soccer buddies.
How to prepare your referees?
Identify key areas you want emphasized in support of your career or the role you are being considered for. The reference checker might ask for examples, so make sure the referee can support their statements with some evidence.
- Arrange for meeting or phone conversation. Review questions your referee may be asked.
- Tell your referee about the kind of job you’re seeking. Ask if they’re comfortable recommending you for such a position. Give them a copy of your resume, clarify your accomplishments, and answer questions they may have.
- Suggest to your referee that you would appreciate strong recommendations in the key areas and traits mentioned above.
- Ask the referee what he/she thinks about your weaknesses or developmental areas: “May I ask you what you think are my developmental needs so that you and I are consistent?”
- Clarify the reason your previous organization (or why you are looking to leave your current organization. You need a congruent story, as reasons for leaving may sometimes be vague.
- Write a summary so your referee can refer to it. The summary will consist of the key points raised during your conversation and the traits and strengths to be emphasized – your career focus, summary of strengths, developmental needs, and reasons for leaving.
- Tell your referee who will be getting in touch with them so they are not surprised when the call comes. Even better, schedule the call yourself if possible.
- Gain your referee’s commitment to call you if anyone contacts him or her.
- Keep your referees posted on your job search.