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References Gone Bad: How services check references

ReferenceCheck

The first week in May is Update Your References Week as sponsored by Career Directors International. If you are looking for a new job or career and haven’t yet renewed your acquaintance with your references, now is the time. If you’re called for an interview today, will you be ready?

You provide the reference checking company with the contact information of one or more possible references, arrange payment (ranging from $30 to $100 per reference), and they will make contact.

You may have to submit a written authorization form for the release of information for the company to keep on file, as some employers require it before providing information for a reference check.

It can take anywhere from one day to several weeks to receive your report(s), depending on how difficult — or easy — it is to track down the contacts. Most professional reference checking companies will attempt between 4-6 contacts, leaving messages each time requesting a return phone call to check a reference.

The reference checker represents himself or herself as a reference checking service on behalf of an unnamed prospective employer, so the person who is being questioned as a reference won’t know you hired a service.

Common questions that are asked by the reference checking service include:

  • Verification that you worked for the company
  • Your job title and role with the company
  • Employment beginning and end dates
  • Pay rate
  • Evaluation of key performance attributes
  • Reason for separation/leaving the company
  • Eligibility for re-hire by the company
  • Recommendation for hire by the prospective employer

Higher-level packages also often include:

  • Additional performance attributes
  • Collecting information about accomplishments
  • Evaluation of leadership/problem-solving capabilities

Most services will provide verbatim quotes from the reference as part of the written report.

Reference Checking Services

Here are three companies that offer reference checking services to jobseekers.

The report will name the individual who provided the reference. This may be different than the contact name you provided — if the reference checker was directed to the HR department, for example.

Some of these companies also perform professional reference checking services for employers, including pre-employment screening services (background checks as well as reference checks).

The fees you pay to a professional reference checking company may be tax-deductible as job search expenses. Consult with your tax advisor for details. Consult with me if you would like help gathering, preparing, and checking your references.

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References Gone Bad: How to hire a reference checking service

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