How well do you know the people you are asking to be your professional references? It turns out that a surprisingly high number of us are choosing our references poorly, and it is costing us job opportunities.
Those are the findings of a new report out from the staffing experts at Robert Half. Their survey of over 600 senior managers in Canada found that roughly one-third of candidates (32 per cent) are removed from consideration for a position because of what their references say.
That’s a third of candidates who have already had their resumes selected, been interviewed, and are at the final stages of the hiring process – still losing out on jobs because of their references.
Don’t let this happen to you. Reference checks help employers get a stronger sense of whether or not you will be a good fit, both in terms of skills and experience, as well as within the workplace culture. Specifically, senior managers surveyed said they were most interested in getting a view of the applicant’s strengths and weaknesses and a description of their past job responsibilities and work experience.
So, before you hand over the names and contact information of your previous managers, make sure they are prepared to speak well of your talents and work ethic.
“During the hiring process, reference checks can make or break your chances of landing a job,” said David King, Canadian president of Accountemps. “Rather than approach references as an afterthought, providing ample notice and preparation are key to ensuring a positive endorsement that reflects well on your candidacy.”
What employers are really looking to find out in reference checks
To help your references prepare for the call, make sure they are prepared to discuss the key issues that matter to employers. Here’s what the survey participants said they are looking for.
Senior managers of Canadian companies with at least 20 employees were asked:
When speaking to an applicant’s references, what is the most important information you hope to receive?
- The applicant’s strengths and weaknesses – 44 per cent
- Details of past duties and responsibilities – 17 per cent
- Confirmation of job title and dates of employment – 15 per cent
- Applicant’s preferred work culture – 14 per cent
- Workplace accomplishments – 11 per cent
So, when vying for a new job, talk to your references first about what they think your greatest strengths and weaknesses are. If you are aware of what they are likely to say, you can address any issues pre-emptively in your interview. You can speak as to how you are working on developing the skills to overcome those weaknesses.
Then, so long as you have been honest about your job title, period of employment, and main responsibilities, you should easily pass the references pitfall that is tripping up one-third of job candidates.