In earlier blogs I have talked about the ideal set of references – a current or former superior/supervisor, a peer, and, if possible, a subordinate. I also acknowledged that it isn’t always possible to get that mix of references. Nevertheless, every employer has the right to insist that job seekers provide work-related references, no matter what the nature of the association might be!
The idea behind asking for a mix of references is to be able to view the candidate from more than one perspective and over a period of time that’s long enough to be illuminating. How a supervisor viewed the candidate’s overall job performance last year may be entirely different from how a subordinate saw it last month. And both of those perspectives may be different from that of a former coworker who had a completely independent view of the candidate (because there was no direct reporting relationship).
It’s also perfectly understandable that not every job seeker has had supervisory responsibility and, therefore, no one reporting to him or her. In that case, peers and supervisors will have to suffice, but the point remains the same: The prospective employer should be defining the types of references to be provided. It a candidate can’t or won’t come up with the names of people who fit that description, that should be a red flag of major proportions, and the employer should probably keep on looking for candidates who can!