Resume Reference Checks: Everything You Need to Know

Resume Reference Checks: Everything You Need to Know

You probably spend hours perfecting your resume. But how much time have you spent on your references? Job applicants often overlook the importance of having an impressive reference list. Before you send over your references, you should take some time to fine-tune your reference list. Before you do that, find out everything you need to know about the reference checking process.

Reference Checks Aren't Always in Your Control

With most aspects of the job hunting process, you're the one in charge. You control how you prepare for the interview, answer questions, and come across. However, you aren't in control of how your references speak about you.

While you might expect a reference to speak well of you, it's impossible to know what they will say. Your reference could say something that hurts your chance of getting a job offer. Before you pick your references, it's crucial to understand how reference checks occur.

They Can Check References at Any Time

Although reference checks usually occur after employers conduct interviews, you can never be certain when the checks will occur. Some employers choose to do their phone calls on a shortlist of employees who performed well during their interviews. However, other employers are more unpredictable and change up their timing.

Your prospective employer could perform a reference check at any time. In some cases, employers choose to call references before the first interview. They use the reference check as a way to narrow down the applicant pool and decide who should be called in for an interview.

Whenever they perform the check, one fact remains true. The hiring manager is likely to check out at least one of your references during the process. As long as you have good references, this shouldn't be a problem.

You Give Automatic Permission to Check Your Resume

Depending on your state, you might be giving an employer automatic permission to contact a reference on your list. What does this mean for you? It means that the hiring manager could reach out to anyone on your reference list without informing you.

In some states, your permission isn't immediately granted. You might need to sign a form to give your consent. However, you should still be sure that your references are ready to receive a phone call. The last thing you want is for your reference to be caught unprepared.

It's important to realize that your hiring manager might want to call someone not included on your reference list. By calling someone who has seen you in action, the manager can learn more about your strengths and weaknesses. Known as back-door references, these people often include managers, former associates, past employees, and LinkedIn connections. Today, it's easier than ever for hiring managers to find the contact details for back-door references.

Fortunately, there may be some limitations regarding who the hiring manager can call. Every state has its own laws, so you may want to look into local laws for reference checking. No matter what, you don't have much control over who your hiring manager questions. If you have anything to hide about an incident with a former employer, you should be honest and forthcoming about it.

What Do Hiring Managers Ask About?

When you pick a reference, think about what questions they might need to answer. Although the questions vary, there are a few that you can expect your reference to be asked. On a basic reference check, the hiring manager will hope to verify the things you wrote on your resume. They might question the time of your employment, the skills you used, or your achievements.

But if you've already made it a few steps through the hiring process, your employer might ask your references more detailed questions. They might ask the following:

How did they work with their colleagues?

Were they punctual and reliable?

How did they handle challenges?

Why did you fire them?

Why did they leave the position?

Were they an asset to your company?

When you pick out your references, you should have confidence that they will answer any questions in a favorable way. You don't need to settle for a reference who will speak poorly of you. To make your chances of employment better, only use a reliable connection.

The Limitations to Questions

The hiring manager is allowed to ask many questions, but there are limitations to what they may ask or what your reference says. If a former employer says something that's not true about you, then you have the option to sue them. When it comes to asking and answering questions, state and federal laws apply.

Your reference is allowed to share information about your employment in the workplace. For instance, your former employer can disclose your start and end salary, your daily responsibilities, and issues with your performance. They also can share why you left the company. Keep in mind that company policies could limit what your reference says.

If you ever feel that your reference check has gone too far, you can look into the local laws and company policies. On your own, you might find it difficult to tell the difference between a valid question and one that is off-limits. For answers, you should consult with a lawyer. They'll know the nuances of the law and can tell you if there's been any offense. If a hiring manager or former employer broke the law, you can take legal action and sue for damages.

What Does it All Mean?

So what exactly does all this mean? Your references are important. In fact, you could say that they're crucial to getting a job offer. When you pick out your references, know that they will be able to sway a hiring manager one way or another.

Just as you scrutinize your resume, you should analyze your reference list. Make sure your list is up-to-date and notify all of your references about the possibility of a phone call. If you think any of your references will speak ill of you, replace them with another name. When you fine-tune your list, you give yourself a better chance of getting a job offer.

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