When you are looking for and applying for jobs, you might often be asked to submit some references. This often seems like a routine step of the recruitment process and you might not think back about this formality anymore. Some job seekers might wonder if and when references will be checked or if the fact that your references have been contacted means you are going to receive an offer.
So, let´s dig a bit deeper, how often do employers actually contact your references?
Years ago, references might be something that you just included in your resume or that you gave to the recruiter/hiring manager after the first interview. The famous one-liner “references available upon request” was very frequently seen on resumes, and this might have been a bit obsolete, which job seeker is going to refuse giving references when asked for them if they really wanted to job? However, nowadays, most employers only ask for references the moment they are ready for them and definitely not always at the beginning of the recruitment process. And although this may suggest that this means you are very close to getting an offer, that is not necessarily the case.
Since in today´s job market, references are usually an essential part of the final stages of the recruitment process, as an applicant you need to be prepared for this step as well. First of all, you need to make sure you have a good list of references ready, for when you are asked for them. If possible, it is always good to include a referrer at your current employer and you should try to include managers (not just peers). Don´t include parents or friends as references (what do you think they are going to tell about you?), if you can´t get 3 referrers at previous employers, think about previous teachers or volunteer experience you have done. Second, make sure you check with each reference that they are ok with their contact information being shared and that they are willing and available to give a reference about you.
To not waste time with contacting references for every single applicant in a recruitment process, most employers will only check your references if you have made it to the final few candidates. Please note, this does not mean you are getting the job, but it probably means you have made it to the final cut. In very exceptional cases, employers check references even before the first interview but this is common practice (and not a very recommended process from an efficiency point of view).
When you are contacting the people you would like to submit as references, make sure you are not forcing them into something. Even though you might be tempted to tell them what they should say about you or ask them if they can please say something positive, don´t fall for this trap. The fact you have selected them as referrers probably means that you have a feeling they think highly of you or that they have positive things to say about you. However, trying to push them into saying specific things, might actually blur that positive view they probably had about you. Hence, just trust them to say the right things and trust the process. You can´t control what they will say in the actual conversation anyway, so don´t attempt to do so.
In summary, we can´t give you a closed answer on how often employers actually contact your references. It all depends on their respective recruitment processes and how far you get into the process.
How is your experience with providing references as a job seeker?