Workwrite Resumes

References Gone Bad: How to hire a reference checking service  


Since the first week in May, Update Your References Week as sponsored by Career Directors International, we’ve been reviewing best practices regarding references. 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?

So, you’ve decided to hire a reference checking service. How will you decide which one to enlist to help you determine the value and performance of your references? Here are some things to consider in your deliberation:

  • Review the company’s cancellation/substitution policies carefully. If the reference you provide does not return phone calls and cannot be contacted, you probably won’t receive a refund. There are many reasons why a reference may not be able to be contacted, including illness, vacations, or business travel. Or he or she may simply not want to provide a reference and, consequently, be unavailable for contact. (In these cases, the reference checking service will let you know that they were unable to obtain a reference; this is likely the same result a prospective employer would receive, so even that information can be useful. If a reference advises you to use his or her name, and then won’t make himself or herself available to speak to a prospective employer, that’s important information to know. You’ll find out if a reference will cooperate!)
  • Ask the company about callbacks. If the service you choose does not provide employment verification services for corporate clients, make sure the callback number they are using does not appear in Google search results as a third-party reference checking service; otherwise, the reference may discover you’re investigating him or her, leading to future negative references, even if he or she would have provided a positive one previously.
  • Check the company’s confidentiality policy. If challenged by the reference about “who is asking,” most reference checking companies will represent themselves as an independent third-party verification service conducting a reference check. In general, the companies won’t misrepresent themselves as an actual prospective employer if they are asked, because that is against the law in some states.

What to do if you get a bad reference

Your reference-checking service uncovers a less-than-glowing report from a reference. Now what?

If you’ve been involved in a lawsuit in your previous job, this may affect your future employment, depending on what your former employer says about you. Even if you left on good terms, you may find you’re getting a less-than-stellar reference. So what should you do if you find your references are hurting your employment prospects?

It depends on the type of negative information that is uncovered. Common issues include:

  • Inaccurate information
  • Badmouthing
  • Discrimination

Inaccurate information is the easiest to correct. If you’re being badmouthed, you may have to get legal advice for how to handle it. Some reference checking companies will offer services to help you address bad references. For example, CheckYourReference.com can prepare a cease-and-desist letter for you to send to an offending reference for $75.

While it’s not always possible to keep a prospective employer from talking to a bad reference, if you can, send prospective employers to a different reference who can also speak to your experience at that company, but with a more positive attitude.

Trends in reference checking

Some jobseekers are using professional reference checks to their advantage in the job search, presenting pre-checked references as part of the interview process — like a “CarFax” for candidates. Presenting a written report of your references, validated by a third-party service, can reassure a prospective employer. This is even more powerful when the references are checked again, and the same information is discovered in the company’s own reference check.

If you find you’re getting interviews, but not job offers, your references might be the problem. A third-party reference checking service can help you identify whether this is the case, and give you the information you need to decide how to proceed. If your references are providing glowing testimonials of your employment, knowing that can also boost your confidence, and potentially give you a tool that you can use to strengthen your candidacy.

If you would like help making decisions about your references, contact me today.



Share this...
Share on LinkedInShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone

Leave a Reply