References are tricky and deserve their own blog post. Candidates looking for new opportunities should have 2-3 business related references ready to go. Ideally, they will be supervisors or managers and perhaps for the third, a team member. Candidates should call, I repeat call and speak with each potential referee and outline the position they are applying for and who to expect a call from. You should be comfortable that the referee will give a positive reference.
If you are asked to be a referee for an employee you may be restricted by corporate policy on the information you can give out and should make the candidate aware of that. If you are not comfortable giving a reference for whatever reason you should simply say “I would not be the best choice for you”. Unless you are a spiteful person and want to give a poor reference just politely decline.
As a recruiter I have run into many issues around trying to get references confirmed. I have had a referee tell me that under no circumstances would they recommend my candidate. This after agreeing to be a referee. I have had a situation where a referee acknowledged the work of the candidate prior to gender reassignment, a change that had not been previously disclosed by the candidate, but was unsure of the candidate’s current abilities.
There are third party companies engaged by some organizations to perform reference checks. They can be effective however on more than one occasion I have had candidates complain their referees had not heard from the company. In one instance when I contacted the company, I discovered they had been leaving messages but they were in French and were ignored by the English-speaking referee.
I ask my candidates to provide me with a list of two or three which includes the referees name and current title/company and former title/company if applicable, contact numbers and email addresses.
To sum up, in job search you should take nothing for granted and that includes securing professional references.