Your Resume May Win Interviews, But Your References Will Win You the Job

They say that “Inquiring minds want to know”, and no minds are more inquiring than those considering whether to hire you. Once you have gained the interview – perhaps with your excellent resume and job credentials – the potentially hard part begins as employers conduct a (frequently rigorous) job reference and background check to ensure that you are their optimal employment candidate. JobReferences reports that many applicants are in for an unpleasant surprise; 50% of their clients receive poor to mediocre employment references.

And rest assured – your background and references will be investigated. There are two avenues by which a prospective employer will accomplish this: first, via a background check, and second, by checking your key references at recent (or not-so-recent) places of employment. The background check is conducted through the use of your social security number – it will generate a report to the employer that will indicate if you have any criminal history, bankruptcies, etc. in your background. Reference checks are typically conducted with either your former supervisors, or Human Resources, or both. If any of the feedback from these checks reflects something unfavorable, it is highly unlikely that an employer will tell you this is why you were not hired. Instead, the more likely scenario is that you will be told that they have made “other arrangements”, or you will simply never hear from then again.

Sadly, this happens far more often than most job seekers would think. It is very possible that the great job you lost out on at the last moment had nothing to do with your lack of skills, being overqualified, or a bad economy, but was instead the result of an unfavorable background check. In fact, about half of all references that are conducted through JobReferences (a premier 3rd party reference/background checking organization) can be classified as mediocre to poor. This is indeed frightening when your employment livelihood is at stake.

Even if you don’t anticipate any issues, never assume that your background check – when run by a prospective employer – will be problem-free. Over your adult life, many parties can provide information that will ultimately appear on your report. If any of that data has been entered in error, (e.g. by a clerical person who has incorrectly entered your social security number, or someone else’s), you might find that there is something far worse on your report than a speeding ticket you got many years ago.

In summary, the old saying “never assume” surely applies to reference and background checks, and the problematic data they might reveal. The good news: organizations like can conduct a background check or job reference check for you, and offer remedial steps (such as a Cease & Desist letter) in the event either of these come back with negative commentary. It’s never too early to identify what your background report, or your former employers, are saying about you – the livelihood you save may be your own.

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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.