The Final Phase of the Job Hunt, Your Background & References

Does this scenario sound familiar? In your search for new employment, you’ve done your homework in refining your resume and presentation skills and have perhaps even “aced” an interview (or two) in spades. A prospective job offer is within reach; one of the last hurdles remaining, the reference checking process.

Realizing that your career may rest in a reference’s hands, you consider using a friend (or relative) – posing as a potential employer – to see what a reference will say about you to a prospective employer.

While this tactic may be tempting, there are several reasons why this is a bad idea:

  1. Most friends, however well-intended, are not reference checking professionals. They may act in an unprofessional manner, ask inappropriate or illegal questions, or allow something to slip that could compromise your position.
  2. Some states impose limitations or restrictions on impersonations. A good reference-checking enterprise knows the legal limitations of reference checking and does not cross those lines.
  3. Your reference may convey subtle verbal nuances that a friend may not pick up on. Intonation, wording, and hesitations in responses can be “red flags” to a professional reference checker that may not be picked up by an unseasoned ear.
  4. A reference checked by a friend is not legally supportable. If a friend calls and confirms that your reference is providing career-damaging input, you will have no recourse to use this hearsay report for legal or remedial action. A professional reference checking company provides a legally supportable report and may even offer services to help you neutralize a bad reference.
  5. A friend might not answer your reference’s return call in a professional manner. Your friend might not be able to take a reference’s return call, if it is necessary. There is also the possibility that someone else would take a return call instead of your friend. Also, a suspicious reference might check their Caller ID and perceive what you are up to – not a situation you want with your all-important reference.
  6. A friend might “sugar coat” negative information about you. It’s hard to be the bearer of bad news, especially to a friend who may not be receptive to hearing some really unflattering information.
  7. If suspicious of the interviewer, a formerly good reference may become a bad one. If your reference suspects they are being manipulated, you could lose their trust and willingness to act as a favorable future reference.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking a casual call from a friend takes the place of a check by a professional reference checking organization such as JobReferences, who confirm that approximately 50% of all reference checks they conduct reveal negative information. Good references are one of your greatest assets when looking for a job, and employers take them very seriously. Make sure yours measure up.

For further information, please visit

About Allison

Allison & Taylor Inc. and its principals have been in the business of checking references for individuals and corporate accounts since 1984. We have successfully built our brand and corporate recognition and have been recommended by industry specialists such as The New York Times award-winning author Martin Yate (“Knock ‘Em Dead Résumés”). Numerous articles have been published about our business in newspapers and magazines including The Christian Science Monitor, The Wall Street Journal, Glamour Magazine, New Woman, Worth, National Business Employment Weekly, The Detroit News, and The St. Petersburg Times.