Always remember that the object of the reference-checking exercise is to make sure that the candidate is right for the job and that the job is right for the candidate.  If the job really isn’t right for the candidate, for whatever reason, it’s far better for the prospective employer to hear it from references than to hire someone for a job at which he will eventually fail.  Failure is a lose-lose situation for both the employer and the candidate.  There is no positive outcome when there is a job mismatch.

Additionally, being spared a job mismatch keeps the candidate’s career on track and moving forward, which benefits both parties.

Two obvious, but often overlooked, things the employer should advise candidates for employment to do once they’ve selected their references are:

  • Have the candidate tell his references that they have his absolute and express permission to talk with prospective employers who call.
  • Tell the candidate to ask his references if they will actually talk to a prospective employer if called.  If for any reason a reference starts to hedge or flat-out refuses to talk to a prospective employer, the employer should advise the candidate to other references who will.  Although it’s hard to imagine that a friend and co-worker would agree to serve as a reference and then refuse to talk to a legitimate prospective employer.  Nevertheless, it sometimes happens.  And it if does, it’s usually because the candidate didn’t make absolutely sure the reference would talk to prospective employers in the first place!