When an employer or recruiter is checking a reference we are looking for three key components:
- What the reference says in response to our question about you.
- The tone with which the reference talks about their experience working with you.
- The length of the answer that reference gives in response to a question.
Part of being a recruiter or HR person is being able to understand what is not said during a reference. If an employer gives us short, one-word answer in response to the question we ask or uses a negative tone, that typically gives us pause. It is not always a deal-breaker if the answers are short or the tone is not that enthusiastic, however, we do take all things into consideration when checking references.
The best potential references to select to give to an employer or recruiter are those people who directly supervised your work. Recruiters and employers are not interested in talking to peers or personal acquaintances for the most part. Once you have chosen the people whose names you are going to give out, it is critical to personally speak with each person before a potential employer calls to check your reference. Additionally, references typically speak more highly of those people who they have regularly kept in touch with.
Finally, it is important NOT to list your references on your resume. It is appropriate to have a separate list of your references and to only provide that list once requested by the employer or recruiter. Otherwise, if you include your references on your resume they might be abused by people you don’t want calling them.