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References Can Be Decisive

August 27 2010 - Despite the emphasis placed on strong resumes and interview performance, the results of a reference check can be decisive in determining the outcome of a job application, according to a survey conducted by OfficeTeam, a leading staffing service specializing in the placement of skilled administrative professionals.

The survey was based on telephone interviews with more than 300 Canadian senior managers at companies with 20 or more employees. Respondents reported removing 26 per cent of candidates from consideration after checking their references.

When speaking to reference providers, 29 per cent said they were most interested in information about the applicant's strengths and weaknesses; 27 per cent wanted a description of their past job duties and experience. Other areas of interest included:

  • workplace accomplishments (14 per cent)
  • confirmation of job title and dates of employment (9 per cent)
  • insight into the applicant's preferred work culture (7 per cent)

The report offers advice for job seekers' when selecting reference providers:

  1. Choose wisely - Identify individuals able to discuss your abilities and experience directly relevant to the position, not just those with the most impressive job titles. Offer a mixture who can address different aspects of your background; for example, a previous co-worker to describe your interpersonal skills, a past direct report to comment on your management style.
  2. Check in beforehand - Always ask permission in advance. Give all reference providers a copy of your resume, the job description and the name of the person likely to contact them.
  3. Be prepared - Provide detailed contact information for your references (including name, title, daytime phone number and e-mail address). Give a brief explanation of the nature of your relationship with each individual. Consider supplying additional references in case the hiring manager is unable to contact one of those on the list.
  4. Think outside the box - Employers may seek out additional contacts (for example, online or using their own networks) to gain a broader view. Try to remain on good terms with past supervisors and colleagues. Be selective about who is represented in your online network on sites such as LinkedIn.
  5. Give thanks - Express gratitude to those who agree to give references, even if they are not contacted ultimately. Update them on your progress and offer to reciprocate.

Robert Hosking, OfficeTeam executive director said:

"When hiring managers narrow the field to a few potential candidates, the reference check often becomes the deciding factor. To distinguish themselves from the competition, job seekers should assemble a solid list of contacts who can persuasively communicate their qualifications and professional attributes."

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