Reference Checks: Do or Die Time

It should go without saying that having good references is an important part of the job search process. The employer who is evaluating you has only met you on a few occasions and he feels you have the skills required. But your references are people who have worked with you regularly and who know your work first hand.

Ideally, your references should be former managers. Peers are second choices, particularly for non-manager level job hunters.

So what’s the biggest mistake that job hunters make with their references?

They don’t have the references checked to hear what is said about them!

(The second biggest mistake is presenting inaccurate contact information to the employer and then having to correct it.)

Recently, someone I was representing for a senior position with a major firm took “the lazy man’s approach” of turning over unchecked references to a prospective employer. They were given at the time of the first meeting on the employment application.

They were given at the time of the first meeting on the employment application.

Three interviews later, the employer called them and heard one of them offer what can only be described as a “candid assessment” of the individual’s lack of success. It was impossible to fix.

For less experienced people, the reference may not be skillful at describing successes, contributions , and experience, presenting information in a “lukewarm” manner that is interpreted as ambivalence or neutrality, rather than the lack of experience the reference provider may have.

Make sure your references will speak in glowing terms about:

Skills competence Character Personal leadership Work ethic Ability to work with superiors, peers, subordinates and others you may interact with Self­Motivation Personality Ability to work independently Ability to work with a team Ability to work under pressure

Not preparing your references may result in your candidacy crashing and burning.

Preparing them well can give you that extra inch that puts you over the top … and pays you better!


© 2006, 2020 all rights reserved.


Jeff Altman, The Big Game HunterJeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1900 episodes, and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

Are you interested in 1:1 coaching, interview coaching, advice about networking more effectively, how to negotiate your offer or leadership coaching? Schedule a free Discovery call.

If you have a quick question for me, you can get it answered with a 3-5 minute video at Want to do it live?

If you want to learn how to interview like a pro, order “The Ultimate Job Interview Framework” from The Kindle and print versions are available on Amazon.

Connect with me on LinkedIn. Like me on Facebook.

Join and attend my classes on Skillshare. Become a premium member and get 2 months free.

Watch my videos on YouTube at, the Job SearchTV app for FireTV, Roku or a firestick or for AppleTV and 90 smart tv platforms.

You can order a copy of “Diagnosing Your Job Search Problems” for Kindle on Amazon and receive free Kindle versions of “No BS Resume Advice” and “Interview Preparation.” If you are starting your search, order, “Get Ready for the Job Jungle.”

Don’t forget to give the show 5 stars and a good review in iTunes. It helps other people discover the show like you did.Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

Jeff Altman owns the copyright in and to all content in and transcripts of No BS Job Search Advice Radio podcast, Job Search Radio Podcast, The No BS Coaching Advice podcast, ,and other content with all rights reserved, as well as his right of publicity.


You are welcome to share a transcript (up to 500 words but not more) in media articles (e.g., The New York Times, LA Times, The Guardian), on your personal website, in a non-commercial article or blog post (e.g., Medium), and/or on a personal social media account for non-commercial purposes, provided that you include attribution to “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” “Job Search Radio,”” The No BS Coaching Advice Podcast,” “”as well as other content and link back to the For the sake of clarity, media outlets with advertising models are permitted to use excerpts from the transcript per the above.



No one is authorized to copy any portion of the podcast content or use Jeff Altman’s name, image or likeness for any commercial purpose or use, including without limitation inclusion in any books, e-books, book summaries or synopses, or on a commercial website or social media site (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) that offers or promotes your or another’s products or services. For the sake of clarity, media outlets are permitted to use photos of Jeff Altman. 




About the author

Leave a Comment, Thought, Opinion. Speak like you're speaking with someone you love.

%d bloggers like this: