Employment Background Checks: How a List of References Can Help Land the Job

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Before rushing to an interview with just a resume, candidates should be sure to have a proper list of references. Preparing in advance just might help them land the job.

Just like an objective at the top of a resume, adding “references on request” at the bottom is obsolete. Every recruiter knows that references are available. Because if they are not, the likelihood is that the job seeker won’t be getting a job offer.

The problem is that job seekers put little thought into their list of employment references choosing instead to focus all their attention on their resume and cover letter. The truth of the matter is, however, a properly developed list of references can make or break their chances of landing the job.

Keep in mind that most states have laws which govern what past employers can say and applicants must sign a release before the potential new employer can conduct any reference checking.

Regardless of these facts, employers are going to continue to check references before hiring candidates, so applicants need to make sure they prepare a proper list for the employer. Here are four steps to doing it the right way:

Separate Reference Page

References should be listed on a separate page and not on the resume or cover letter. The formatting itself – centered or flush left – is not as important as ensuring that it contains the proper information.

Who is on the Reference List?

First and foremost, candidates should be sure to select people with whom they have worked and who can speak to their qualifications and professional experience. This might include previous supervisors, peers, and subordinates, but should typically contain no more than five names. By no means should the list include friends and family or individuals who will not provide a good reference. In addition, references should be people that have current knowledge of the candidate’s abilities, not what they were doing ten or fifteen years ago.

Make it Complete

Along with each person’s name, the list should include their job title, the organization they work for and their contact information. This means at least one working phone number where the reference can be reached. Additional phone numbers or email addresses are optional. Job seekers should routinely check with their references to ensure the information is up to date.

Timing is Everything

Although candidates should not give an employer their references until they ask for them, they should have the list prepared and take it with them to the interview just in case. It is generally appropriate to provide the list when candidates get to the point in the hiring process where they are being given serious consideration. When this happens, the job seeker should make sure to notify their references to expect to receive a call, along with the name of the person and company who will be calling. This way the reference can be available and be prepared to answer questions.

Preparing a list of job references in advance of the interview process is much easier than having to pull something together at the last minute. It also makes the job seeker appear more professional and sends the message that the company has hired the right person for the position.