Georgia Lanecandidate, candidates, client

Years ago, every job seeker would have been asked by a potential employer for references. If you didn’t have any or had bad ones that was the door shut on that job search. It was the norm, and the term ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’ really meant something. But, in 2019 are references and who you know still relevant to a job seekers search?

You’ll still find that certain sectors such as finance, education and public sectors, as well as, large organisations still use references as part of their screening and/or hiring processes. However, over the years for other sectors and organisations references have become less popular and, in some cases, fallen out of favour completely.

So, why is it that references have fallen out of favour in the past couple of years?


Time waits for no man, as they say. But when trying to get references all you seem to do is wait! You wait for the contact details of the reference givers; you wait to get the references back and then wait to see if they are acceptable. It’s a long waiting game that the modern working world has no time for. A job seeker doesn’t want to be left waiting around to see if they can start a new job and reference givers often don’t have the time in their day to fill out endless amounts of paperwork for a reference about a former employee they may not even remember.

Bad References

Now it’s widely known that reference givers can’t provide bad/poor references, but employers are asking for these references or a reason, right? They want to know what their potential hire is truly like as an employee. So, how are they meant to know the answer if they can’t get an honest reference, whether that reference is bad or not?


The other side of providing bad/poor references is that the references may not be true! Shocking I know, but we’ve all heard the horror stories or have unfortunately been a part of them, when employers who hold ill feeling (whether they’re founded or not) have caused issues for an individual’s career by providing references that are incorrect. Or the flip side a reference could also be given by a ‘friend-colleague’ who is biased due to their friendship and is willing to help them into a new job rather than give the new employer the facts.

Lack of monitoring

If you think that the days of unofficial off the record references are a thing of the past, your sorely mistaken. As recruiters we’ve seen and heard everything, and that sort of thing still goes on. Even through its wrong, employers still want to know who they’re hiring.

Ultimately there’s no way of knowing if references are factually correct, good or bad, until the job seeker starts works and the employer sees it for themselves. Which is why in more recent times we’ve seen a rise in modern techniques such as skill and psychometric tests. As they use proven techniques to produce a good overview of an individual’s skills and personality types rather than the biased and personal views, references can sometimes produce.

However, finding out what an individual is like as an employee or their attributes without references are hard for an employer to gage before hiring, hence why some employers still like to reply on them.

The question remains are references relevant during the hiring process or is it time it made way for more modern techniques.


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