When applying for jobs, beware your references, study says

Share via

To many people looking for work, references on job applications are a bit like long snappers in football: easily ignored.

But in the same way the oft-overlooked position can make or break the game, references hold surprising sway in hiring decisions, according to a survey from jobs site Careerbuilder.

Many jobseekers haphazardly throw a few names into the reference section just before shipping off their resume to potential employers.


One in 10 don’t provide any former colleagues or bosses, according to the survey, which was conducted by Harris Interactive. Nearly 3 in 10 employers say they’ve found fake references on applications.

And 15% don’t warn their listed recommenders -- when they exist, that is -- that they’re on the hook to answer interviewer calls.

Quiz: How much do you know about the ‘fiscal cliff’?

Not so shocking, then, that 62% of hiring managers said they’ve spoken to references who didn’t give positive feedback about a job candidate.

The vast majority -- 80% -- of prospective employers will question a hire’s former coworkers, contrary to popular opinion that references are often lost in the morass of cover letters, educational pedigrees and resume bullet points.

Many hiring managers check out the references before even calling candidates for interviews. More than two-thirds said they’ve changed their minds after having a chat, with most forming a more negative opinion of the applicant than they had before.


The takeaway? Be nice to potential references. And maybe coach them a bit before putting them on the stand.


‘Binders full of women’: What’s happening with the gender gap?

Is meanness a moneymaker? Nice guys are paid less, study finds

Americans are leaving more paid vacation days unused, study says