The Business Reference

by Brian Skory

We recently went through a bit of a firedrill checking business references for a candidate.

While the running-around-tearing-my-hair-out experience is still fresh, I thought I would jot down a few things that any job seeker should know about handling business references.

Protect your Business References

I've talked with many job seekers who refuse to give out any information about their business references until the very late stages of interviewing. They cite experiences with unscrupulous head hunters who contacted their business references to try to entice them away from their current jobs. Not nice.

When dealing directly with a prospective employer, you can feel comfortable giving out your business reference information. They aren't head hunters, so you can be 99% certain that they won't abuse them.

When dealing with recruiters and agencies, you are entitled to understand their policy on business references. Ours is simple: we don't contact anyone's business references without express permission. Period.

Your business references will be grateful (and much more willing) if they are not bombarded with phone calls that start out, "YOUR NAME HERE gave me your name and phone number."

Keep tabs on your Business References

I find it incredibly frustrating when a job seeker gives me a business reference with bad contact info. People change their jobs, their cell phone numbers and their email addresses like I change my haircut.

What I find even more frustrating is when I tell a job seeker that the phone number or email address they gave me is bad, and the response is, "Here, try this one." What? No, no, no, no, no. YOU try that one!

When you are going through the interviewing process, you can do double duty by (a) calling or emailing your business references and warning them that they are likely to hear from prospective employers, (b) asking your business references to confirm that the phone number and email address you have for them are still the best ones to use.

This one should be obvious...

Should you include this manager or that manager on your business reference list? What are the criteria? This one should be obvious.

First, can the person speak freely? Some companies have a policy against providing business references. If a business reference is only capable of giving employment verification, it's not much of a business reference at all.

Second, will the person give you a positive reference? You should ask this before you include anyone on your business reference list.

I know, I know... You think this is obvious. But I myself have been used as a business reference by people who I haven't worked with for ten years or more. Worse yet, I've been used as a business reference by people who I cannot recommend. I will candidly tell anyone who asks whether or not I'll give them a good reference. I think all job seekers should be smart enough to ask!

As always, we're interested in hearing how your job search is going. Feel free to contact us.
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