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Old 31.08.2012, 10:59
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Do companies ask for references to call?

A friend of mine was applying for a project manager job in a Swiss company. The first interview went great. When they called him for a second interview, they asked him to give them two references that they can call "to find out about his work and working together with him".

Is this normal? It just sounded weird to me that they would ask for references to call, because this guy graduated from one of the top 5 universities in the US, has almost 20 years of experience in his area of work in multinational companies in the US and Europe and has excellent written references.

Is this normal or is this a swiss thing or...?
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Old 31.08.2012, 11:05
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Re: Do companies ask for references to call?

It's normal here and in many places. It's happened to me a couple of times when in the final recruitment process both here and in the UK.

In addition, I have been contacted by HR departments asking about their candidate that worked for me in the past.

They've asked questions about how they fitted into a team, what sort of work they did, if I was happy with their work and other very general questions. If anyone had asked me anything personal about them (which no-one ever did) I would have either told them they were out of order and politely say I wouldn't answer those questions.

Don't know if that is right or wrong but I believe in helping someone get a job rather than rip the rug out from beneath them.


EDIT: On second thoughts, you seem to think this is not normal in the US but I've just recalled a case in my previous company when our HR dept was approached by a large firm in the US about a former employee that had worked in our US office with a similar stack of questions. Seems it does go on there, too.

Last edited by Sandgrounder; 31.08.2012 at 11:07. Reason: Afterthought.
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Old 31.08.2012, 11:18
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Re: Do companies ask for references to call?

I'd say it's pretty standard here. My current employer also asked for contact details of my previous boss, despite me having already provided two written reference letters.
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Old 31.08.2012, 11:55
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Re: Do companies ask for references to call?

It just sounded unusual to me, because I've worked in several companies in the US and in several European countries and I have never been asked to provide phone numbers from references. I always provided written references with the job application.
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Old 31.08.2012, 14:49
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Re: Do companies ask for references to call?

Im surprised you've never come across this before. The Swiss seem to value both written and verbal references. As do many other countries. Normally verbal references are only called before a job offer is about to be made or sometimes if there are several equally suitable candidates.

Verbal references are also used to verify the information you have given. Otherwise you could fabricate your background and experience, and there is nothing to stop someone from using company letterhead to write their own glowing references.
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Old 05.09.2012, 12:50
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Re: Do companies ask for references to call?

is it better if you have really good reference names to include them directly on on extra page at the end of the CV?

the RAV brochure says you should mention having them and offer to give them upon request, but I have found other sources saying you should add them directly. in my case, since the references are good, informed and happy to help, I don't see why I shouldn't include them directly. having read contradicting advice I'm uncertain how it looks, one way or the other?

w.treffpunkt-arbeit.ch/dateien/Broschuere/wie_bewerbe_ich_mich_richtig_de.pdf

it would be great if anyone, maybe an HR person with CH experience, could help...
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Old 05.09.2012, 12:57
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Re: Do companies ask for references to call?

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is it better if you have really good reference names to include them directly on on extra page at the end of the CV?
I tend to do that if I'm applying for something specific where I think there's a reasonable chance that I'll get the job.

If it's something a bit more speculative then I'll put "References on Request".

Either way, I feel it's fair to give the reference advance warning just in case they get caught off-guard and say "Mirfield? Yeah, he's a prick".

If I can avoid it I try not to give them to agencies. Otherwise they end up on their cold calling list, and I'd rather not have my old mates hating me.
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Old 05.09.2012, 13:02
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Re: Do companies ask for references to call?

thanks a lot.
and do you insert them as an entry of the CV document or as an extra page?

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I tend to do that if I'm applying for something specific where I think there's a reasonable chance that I'll get the job.

If it's something a bit more speculative then I'll put "References on Request".

Last edited by mirfield; 05.09.2012 at 13:22. Reason: Hit Edit instead of Quote. Eejit.
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Old 05.09.2012, 13:22
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Re: Do companies ask for references to call?

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thanks a lot.
and do you insert them as an entry of the CV document or as an extra page?
They or the "On Request" are the last section of the main CV, at the bottom of the last page (I have them side by side so they take up about 5-6 lines)
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Old 05.09.2012, 14:02
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Re: Do companies ask for references to call?

Remember that it is 'de rigueur' to always ask referees for their permission before doing so. If they get an unexpected phone call, they might not be happy about that.
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Old 05.09.2012, 16:45
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Re: Do companies ask for references to call?

In general it's standard to incluce references but for your future company it's much more important you have arguments that tell them you are exactly the guy they need for this position.
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Old 05.09.2012, 16:52
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Re: Do companies ask for references to call?

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Don't know if that is right or wrong but I believe in helping someone get a job rather than rip the rug out from beneath them.
Same here.

I've been asked to give references on former employees. I always give positive ones, even if I wasn't 100% satisfied with the person orginally. I don't want to keep grudges or to damage their future careers because of things that happened in the past. If I liked the person I will help them because I feel I owe it to them, and if i don't like the person i will help them anyway as I want them to move on. And just because a person got on well (or didn't) in one job doesn't mean they will (or won't) in the next. It depends on the people and the chemistry of the situation.

So at the end of the day asking references is a waste of time, but if HR people feel it has any meaning I will play along with it.
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Old 05.09.2012, 17:00
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Re: Do companies ask for references to call?

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I've been asked to give references on former employees. I always give positive ones, even if I wasn't 100% satisfied with the person orginally.
I'm guessing in reality it's marginal whether somebody fits or not. But what if a person was dangerously incompetant or had obviously lied about his experience with the new guys, would there be a limit to your positive nature?

Is there any comeback on referees if they say something that isn't factually true (good or bad)?
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Old 05.09.2012, 17:03
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Re: Do companies ask for references to call?

A few thoughts:

- In the U.S. it is very common to call a person's references right before a job is offered. Including letters of reference with your application materials is rare and can annoy HR. It is no longer necessary to include a page with actual references or even put "upon request" on a résumé. Employers who are interested will ask. Again, we're talking U.S. not CH...but just FYI.

- It is also important to regularly re-verify with said references that they want to remain on the list. If you're applying to a lot of places at one time, they may not want to receive a bunch of calls. They also probably don't want to wind up on a headhunter's cold call list as Mirfield pointed out.
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Old 05.09.2012, 17:11
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Re: Do companies ask for references to call?

most certainly!
actually for me it worked as a badly needed confidence boost at the beginning of my search: seeing how quickly, kindly and enthusiastically my former clients and employers answered saying that they would be most pleased to give good references for me.
someone just assured me this morning that he will "instruct the whole department to give positive information about me should anyone call from switzerland".
and no, before you ask, I do not have any association with certain southern italian associations, notwithstanding my sicilian uncle...

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Remember that it is 'de rigueur' to always ask referees for their permission before doing so. If they get an unexpected phone call, they might not be happy about that.
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Old 05.09.2012, 17:35
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Re: Do companies ask for references to call?

Sure.. really normal, and I would say universal for senior roles. Of course you only profer people who will talk well of you, and ideally that you can brief/debrief. You must ask them if they are willing to do it in general, and warn them if there is a specific request. For this reason I only ever offer them on request.

I even had a recruiter recently identify me via linked as a former colleague (who was definitely not going to suggest me as a referree) and ask if I would talk about the person without them knowing. That is more delicate. Ah the joys of social networking.
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Old 05.09.2012, 17:45
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Re: Do companies ask for references to call?

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I'm guessing in reality it's marginal whether somebody fits or not. But what if a person was dangerously incompetant or had obviously lied about his experience with the new guys, would there be a limit to your positive nature?

Is there any comeback on referees if they say something that isn't factually true (good or bad)?
Tough call that one. If you are going to slam the person better to decline to give references (to them if they ask, or sadly the recruiter if they havent the good sense) at all.

You cant give blanket glowing reports however easy it may feels.

If they have some "room for improvement", I always try and understand the role they are going for and if these weaknesses will hinder their chances of being successful at the job. If the weakness seems highly relevant or I am asked directly I will leave a clear hint but not slam them. For example if the guy is technically good but disorganised and bad at self management and going for a highly autonomous role, I might say he works best in a "clearly structured environment" or somesuch.
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Old 05.09.2012, 18:35
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Re: Do companies ask for references to call?

What is the best way to ask a former colleague this? I assume you want to construct the email in a manner that allows them to refuse if need be. How would you go about this?
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Old 05.09.2012, 18:40
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Re: Do companies ask for references to call?

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What is the best way to ask a former colleague this? I assume you want to construct the email in a manner that allows them to refuse if need be. How would you go about this?
Not by email.

Phone. Explain looking for a new job (obviously). Looking for referees, always enjoyed working together, can they give some thought if they are prepared to do it. By phone you will get much better vibes. And you are asking a personal favour, do it in a personal way.

Honestly if you dont think/are not sure they are going to give you a good reference dont even ask.

D
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Old 05.09.2012, 18:52
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Re: Do companies ask for references to call?

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Not by email.
See, now I'd do it by email (or I've done it by SMS before now) because it doesn't disturb them at that moment, and it doesn't make them feel under pressure to answer right away.

That said, I have got on well with my former bosses and had a friendly relationship with them.

I'd go with

Quote:
Hi Herbert,

How are you and Bathsheba?

I'm applying for a job as a flibbert fitter at FlibCo. Is it OK to add you to my CV as a reference?

Hugs 'n' stuff to B and the kids.

Ta luv,
M.
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Hey Herbert,

Looks like I might get that job at FlibCo. They said they'll be contacting my references, so be prepared for a phone call.

Either way, let's go for a beer to catch up.

Give B one from me.

Cheers,
M.
Hopefully not to be followed by

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Herbert,

You bastard! The incident with the photocopier was a one off. There's no reason you had to tell FlibCo about it.

Oh. And your wife's ugly. Deal with it!

M.
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