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jordym84's avatar

Do hiring managers actually contact references?

Asked by jordym84 (4742points) October 17th, 2012

When you submit an application for employment and it asks for references, do employers actually contact them? If so, at what point in the hiring process do they do this? Also, do they contact everyone you list (normally they ask for 3 references, in order of relevance) or do they randomly pick 1 of the 3 to call? What kinds of questions do you think they ask?

Feel free to answer this from any perspective (the employer’s, the reference’s, etc). Thank you in advance! :)

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21 Answers

Jeruba's avatar

Some do. Some don’t. I’ve been a reference, and I’ve been contacted. I’ve been told by some hiring managers that they contacted my references, and I’ve been told by some references that they were called. I’ve also been a hiring manager who sometimes called and sometimes didn’t.

I would think it very strange if all hiring managers behaved alike and you could predict that behavior. They are individuals with personal histories, preferences, and priorities and in different circumstances. A hiring manager in a corporation of 30,000 might behave differently from a hiring manager in a six-person shop, just as one example.

chyna's avatar

Only one of my references was contacted for the job I have now. He was contacted after they hired me. Maybe it was just another step they needed to do and did it out of order. They just asked him how long I had worked at my previous job and would he reccomend me and would he hire me again.

Bellatrix's avatar

My organisation always contacts referees. Referees have to complete a quite detailed form that provides details about the prospective employee and the selection panel usually see references for those they selected to interview prior to the candidates being interviewed.

glacial's avatar

I would contact references for the one person I intended to hire, after I’d made the decision. It was a way to confirm I’d made the right choice, and to find out if there were any red flags I should know about even if I hired that person after the call.

As to which references… I’d try each of them until I found one who wasn’t on vacation or out of the office (which of course happens a lot), and I often wouldn’t bother following up if they were unreachable. The questions would be related either to the type of work involved, or to questions I had following the interview (such as “Do you think this person would get bored having task X to do for long periods?” or about how long their training took) – but these were frankly just ways to start a conversation, much like interview questions are. What I wanted to know was if I could hear any reluctance in the recommendation.

syz's avatar

After the initial interview process, if I’m deciding between applicants, I call them all.
If I’ve decided on an applicant, I call them all before making an offer.

When I am called for a reference on a former employee, I am legally (severely) limited in what information I can provide. But one of the questions that I can answer is “Would you hire this person again” – you can provide a lot of information in your tone of voice when you answer “no”.

marinelife's avatar

Yes, definitely.

glacial's avatar

@syz Haha! Exactly.

jordym84's avatar

When I say references, I don’t mean previous managers/supervisors. For instance, I included all of my old supervisors’ names and contact information in the work history section for each of my previous jobs. But then, a few clicks later, I came across a references page asking for more names and contact information (I put down one of my good friends’ mom’s names she’s an elementary school teacher and knows me well and I know she would give an honest and unbiased recommendation and 2 of my old college professors who know me well academically, professionally and, to a certain extent, personally). A lot of the applications I’ve completed recently ask for both my old managers’ names and contacts as well as 3 more personal/professional references, so I’m wondering if it’s just a formality or if they actually take the time to contact all these people…

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

(US here.) As a person who used to hire employees, yes, I conducted reference checks. It was required by the company. My process was to review applications and resumes, conduct a telephone interview, and then bring in the final candidates for a personal interview.

Once the list of candidates was down to one to three, reference checks would be conducted. The same list of questions were used for each candidate and within the law. The minimum was three.

I never called anyone listed as a personal reference; only those that were listed as previous employers. Despite the US laws, it’s amazing what information a former supervisor will share, and as @syz points out, what they convey by tone of voice.

The company I worked for didn’t allow us to be a reference for employees. There was an 800 number we were to give out that directed the inquirer to an HR record-keeping hotline. However, if it was an internal candidate, there was a little more leeway.

As for questions asked, they included the standard “Can you confirm dates of employment?”, “Would you rehire this person?”, etc. Most were based upon work performance. What any objective information a hiring manager expects to get from a personal reference is beyond me.

glacial's avatar

@jordym84 Oh! No, I can’t imagine anyone calls those.

jordym84's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer I thought as much. If they won’t contact personal references, then why even bother asking for them? I had to contact all these people prior to listing them as references to get the okay from them, which means they had to take time away from their busy schedules to read and then respond to my email, and now they will be expecting a call from the hiring managers. Why not just do away with this section of the application? Wouldn’t it make everyone’s lives easier? Just wondering…

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@jordym84 I have no idea why a company would require personal references. Our company didn’t ask for them, but they were sometimes supplied on resumes.

glacial's avatar

^ Same here. Maybe they got tired of people calling to find out how to include personal references if that was all they had. Maybe it’s just part of the “complete the application” test… you’d be surprised how many people can’t accomplish that with entry-level jobs. But you’ll find it on fewer and fewer applications as you move forward.

jordym84's avatar

Interesting. I didn’t use to encounter this in the past but lately every online application I’ve submitted has asked for personal references.

syz's avatar

I consider “personal references” useless and ask for professional sources.

Kayak8's avatar

It really depends on the type of job. A friend of mine listed me as a personal reference for a government job that involved a security clearance and I was personally (in the flesh) interviewed on his behalf as were his other personal references. You haven’t indicated what type of job for you are applying so there isn’t an easy answer.

For typical job (non-government, non-military, non-security non-law enforcement, non-financial), the personal references may or may not be called. When I am hiring, I do call personal references if I am torn between two otherwise equal candidates.

I would NOT expect personal references to be called if you have professional references and it is an everyday type of job (e.g., restaurant, retail, sales, etc.).

gailcalled's avatar

@syz: you can provide a lot of information in your tone of voice when you answer “no”.

I love this concept. You can turn it into an art form with sufficient pregnant pauses and various versions of “um.”

wundayatta's avatar

I’ve contacted references. I’ve had prospective employers find their own references for me (not people I provided) and I lost that job as a result. It was a job with someone who went to the same school I went to, and they saw a course with a professor on my transcript and called that professor up. Unfortunately, it was a course I had not finished and apparently the professor told them I was more interested in community activities than school.

That put the kibosh on me ever giving a donation to the school.

But yeah, don’t put a reference on your list unless you would be happy if they contacted that reference. There’s nothing you can do, though, if they find their own references for you.

Pandora's avatar

At my former job we use to get calls for job references for people who never worked for us. LOL
So it does happen. I use to put them on hold and call corporate to make sure if it was anyone who had worked for us in the past and find out they had no one by that name. Sometimes they used us as a recent reference and I would tell them straight out it was a lie.
If they had the wrong business altogether than I would just tell them to check with them because they probably just wrote one number incorrect.
But my point is they do often call.

ragingloli's avatar

I would wager, that, if at all, they only do it for those that are in the final selection.
Takes too much time.

poisonedantidote's avatar

Of all the jobs I have ever had, I have never been asked for a diploma, or had any of my references checked. I would know, as my references are normally good friends of mine.

There are things I have made out of metal that form part of aircraft, scary really.

While that is my experience, others will no doubt vary, but I expect the instances of them being contacted are extremely low.

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