A job seeker asks us about one of the most over-looked parts of your job search: reference checks.

I was asked to provide at least three work-related references for a job I’m applying for. I have past supervisors who agreed to act as references when I originally left their respective companies, but two are from quite a few years ago. Is it normal to assume that they’d still be happy to be a reference?

While it can be common for job seekers to use old references, it’s extremely bad practice.

In a recent employer Ask A Recruiter we noted that 3 in 5 references actually had negative things to say about a candidate. Many Line Managers often agree to give references to avoid confrontation even if their experience with the candidate was less than favorable.

So, it’s very important to plan ahead and pick your references carefully. Reach out to your reference contacts and let them know a recruiter or hiring manager may be calling them. This isn’t just a courtesy call; it’s also an opportunity to remind them of your achievements while working with them (especially important if you haven’t worked with them in a few years). Try to focus on attributes that are relevant to the job you’re applying for so they know what they should emphasize in the reference.

If you need some more tips about getting great references read this blog post.

A good recruiter/hiring manager won’t move forward with you unless at least two references have been completed, so you want to make sure they’re stellar!

As a side note, it’s unethical for a recruiter to “massage” or “embellish” information given during a professional reference check.  Any reference given will be passed on to a potential employer as it was stated. We also assure your reference contacts confidentially; therefore we aren’t able to tell you what was said during the reference check.