I’ve been applying for a job for which I’m very well suited and things were going smoothly. The last step was a reference check but since then the company has cooled to me. I provided the name of my former Partner, someone I worked with for a long time, and while we had some differences I assumed she would give me a solid referral. Now I think she bad-mouthed me. What do I do?
There’s not much to be done now. You made a crucial error. Never assume anything….
What is the purpose of a reference check? Simply, it’s for your prospective employer to validate everything you have told them so far in the interview process. Many people embellish on their CVs and during an interview process. A properly done reference check can add a nice counter-weight to that. I’m guessing this is what happened here. Your story and Reference Check story did not match…ultimately, that’s your fault entirely.
Let’s get back to your problem. As I said I don’t think you have much room to move to get this job if your referral did say things that were opposite to the way you presented yourself. So, the first question is: were you honest in your interviews? It’s often easier to blame others but this might be on you. Maybe not…
For the future, I’d have a coffee with your former Partner and bring it up and ask for support in the future and find out exactly what she will say. If it’s not some glowing account then you need a different source for a reference check.
But really, you screwed the pooch here right from the start in assuming you would get praise and for not even asking ahead of time. The former is naïve; the latter is just lazy.
A reference check should be a slam-dunk – but only if you make the effort to ensure that all will be positive and consistent with what you have discussed in your interviews. You need to ask what your referee will say about you and you have to be honest with what your ears are hearing as well. It’s better to get the disappointment over with early, than to lose out on your dream job later.
I once had a former superior respond to my request to be a referee with, “Justy, I will give an honest and accurate account of the job you did with me.” As he and I did not really get on so well I said thank you and ended my call with him. I had the feeling he wasn’t going to be overly supportive so I started thinking about others I could ask. There are always others.
And when you are asking for support it’s best to give them the background of the job and why you want it (important!), the company and, if you can, even the person who will be calling. Even better, if they are agreeable, is helping your referee with some talking points so that your “brand image” remains consistent.
Another thing you can do to keep control and affect a positive outcome is to ask when your prospective employer might contact your Referee. Everyone is busy so scheduling and securing some times when they are in the right frame of mind to do you this favour is not only smart planning but courteous.
By the reference check stage of a hiring process you have already invested so much time and energy into getting the job that it really doesn’t make any sense not wrap up this final act with a nice ribbon. All that takes is asking for the favour upfront, asking what they will say about you and making sure you are both on the same page. A reference check is a slam-dunk if you make the effort; it’s entirely up to you.