OfficeTeam Survey: Reference Checks Remove One in Five Job Candidates From Consideration

Jun 22, 2010, 08:00 ET from OfficeTeam

MENLO PARK, Calif., June 22 /PRNewswire/ -- A strong resume and interview may place job seekers in the running for a position, but a new survey from OfficeTeam finds the results of a reference check can be the real deal maker -- or breaker. Managers interviewed said they remove more than one in five (21 percent) candidates from consideration after speaking to their professional contacts. When it comes to what hiring managers are looking for when speaking to references, more than a third (36 percent) said they are most interested in getting input on an applicant's past job duties and experience. Learning about the individual's strengths and weaknesses came in second, with 31 percent of the response.

The survey was developed by OfficeTeam, a leading staffing service specializing in the placement of highly skilled administrative professionals. It was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on telephone interviews with more than 1,000 senior managers at companies with 20 or more employees.  

Managers were asked, "Approximately what percentage of job candidates do you remove from consideration for a position with your company after checking their references?" The average response was 21 percent.

Managers also were asked, "When speaking to an applicant's job references, what is the most important information you hope to receive?" Their responses:

Description of past job duties and experience


A view into the applicant's strengths and weaknesses


Confirmation of job title and dates of employment


Description of workplace accomplishments


A sense of the applicant's preferred work culture


Other/don't know



"When hiring managers narrow the field to a few potential candidates, the reference check often becomes the deciding factor," said OfficeTeam executive director Robert Hosking. "To distinguish themselves from the competition, job seekers should assemble a solid list of contacts who can persuasively communicate their qualifications and professional attributes."

OfficeTeam offers five tips for creating a reference list that works in your favor:

  1. Choose wisely. Select individuals who can discuss your abilities and experience that directly relate to the position, not just those with the most impressive job titles. Offer a mix of contacts who can address different aspects of your background; for example, a former peer may be able to describe your interpersonal skills, while a past direct report can talk about your management style.
  2. Check in beforehand. Always call potential references first to gain their permission and evaluate their eagerness to serve as a contact. Be sure to give all references a copy of your resume, the job description and the name of the person who will likely call.
  3. Be prepared. Provide clear contact information for your references, including their names, titles, daytime phone numbers and e-mail addresses. Also, offer a brief explanation of the nature of your relationship with each individual. Consider supplying more references than are requested, so you won't miss out on the job offer if the hiring manager can't get in touch with one of your contacts.
  4. Think outside the box. To learn more about potential hires, it's not uncommon for employers to seek out additional contacts, either online or through their own networks, who can serve as a reference. Since you never know who a hiring manager might reach out to, you should not only remain on good terms with your past supervisors and colleagues, if possible, but also be selective about who's in your online network on sites such as LinkedIn.
  5. Give thanks. Express your gratitude to those who agree to serve as references, even if they aren't contacted by employers. Keep them updated on your job search progress and offer to return the favor by providing a recommendation should they need one.

About OfficeTeam

OfficeTeam is the nation's leading staffing service specializing in the temporary placement of highly skilled office and administrative support professionals. The company has more than 320 locations worldwide and offers online job search services at

SOURCE OfficeTeam