References on resumes are tricky business. Common practice is to replace the references section with the phrase “References Available Upon Request” so that we are not flooding these individuals with phone calls by businesses you only had a vague interest in.
References are also odd in other ways. Consider all of the issues with references:
- References are handpicked individuals that are going to give you a positive review.
- References are legally required to say only good things about you.
The latter is perhaps the most hilarious aspect of adding references. The law requires that references say nothing bad about your candidacy. The worst thing that a reference can say about you is that they are unable to discuss your time with the company. That’s it. Otherwise, the reference is required by law to say positive things about your work ability.
It would appear as though references are not that useful. Why bother asking someone about your abilities when they cannot necessarily answer the question honestly?
Despite these shortcomings, if an employer asks for your references, there is a high probability they will contact your references. Some employers will not ask for references at all, but if a company decides to request the names and phone numbers of your references they are very likely to get in touch with them.
There are some exceptions:
- Some employers may only call one reference.
- Some employers will only call the references of candidates they are truly considering.
- Some employers will only call references if they are on the fence about your candidacy.
Otherwise, if they ask for your references, they are probably going to call them.
Good question! It would seem as though that references are not that useful, since they cannot say bad things about your ability to do your job. However, there are ways to say bad things without saying bad things. For example, a lack of enthusiasm in the reference’s voice, or short compliments about qualities that are not that useful. References are also allowed to answer questions with “No Comment” which is essentially saying “The answer to this is so bad I can’t answer it legally.”
References are still useful for the employer, because there are ways to glean what the reference thinks without them saying bad things about you. That is why employers use them, and that is why if they ask for your references at the job interview, the safest assumption is that they will call them, because they probably will.
Take Away Interview Tips
- Only provide references upon request.
- Assume employers will call your references.