By Susan Ricker
When a company requests references on a job application, you might be tempted to skip it, thinking, "Doesn't my work history speak for itself? Won't my references just say good things about me? Do employers even call references?" However, a new CareerBuilder study finds that employers pay attention to what your references say. In fact, 69 percent of employers say they've changed their minds about a candidate after speaking with a reference.
The national study surveyed hiring managers, human-resource professionals and workers across industries and company sizes to find out what matters when it comes to references.
References do matter to potential employers, and they come up earlier in the hiring process than you may think. According to the study, 80 percent of employers say they contact references when evaluating potential employees. Sixteen percent of those employers will contact references even before they call the candidate for a job interview.
However, not everybody is convinced that references matter. Thirty-one percent of those surveyed say references haven't swayed their decisions on a candidate one way or the other.
What Job Seekers Should Know
It may take extra time to gather contact information and include it in your job-application materials, but hiring managers do notice the quality of references, as well as their existence: 29 percent of employers who have contacted references report that they have caught a fake reference on a candidate's application. When a reference is contacted by a potential employer, it's not always guaranteed that he will sing your praises: 62 percent of employers who contacted a reference say the reference didn't have good things to say about the candidate.
You can improve your odds of getting a great review by notifying your references and mentioning what type of job you're seeking. Don't surprise your references and risk a short, uninformative review. Fifteen percent of workers report that they have listed someone as a reference without telling that person.
Most employers notice references, so it's important to choose yours carefully. "You want to make sure you are including your biggest cheerleaders among your job references," says Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. "Before choosing someone, ask yourself, 'Did this person understand my full scope of responsibilities? Can he or she vouch for my skills, accomplishments and work ethic?' You also want to make sure that you ask your former colleagues if you can list them as a reference. If someone is unwilling, it helps you to avoid a potentially awkward or damaging interaction with an employer of interest."
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