Ask a Recruiter: What if I give a reference who doesn’t end up giving me a glowing recommendation? Will one bad reference spoil my chance at getting a job?


We have seen candidates hired who have one poor reference but two to three great ones. So one bad reference doesn’t mean it’s all over for you.

What do recruiters want to learn from your references? At The Bagg Group, we focus on your strengths and areas for improvement.

Nobody expects that your reference will describe you as a perfect employee, since none of us are perfect. In any case, you can be assured that recruiters are extremely skilled at interviewing references, and at listening not just to answers but to tone of voice.

In other words, we know very well how to tell the difference between what is personal opinion and what is an objective assessment of a candidate’s skills.

Whether you are looking for a full-time job, contract work, or temporary work, you will need references. So make a point of staying in touch with your reference provider as you seek job opportunities in the GTA so that they are ready and willing to talk about you.

We put together this reference tip sheet to help you, and us, work with references.

Provide titles and contact information for each of your references. We only call the contacts you provide. If your reference is traveling or out of town, don’t worry. We will contact them by email. And by the way, recruiters prefer not to call references on cell phones. If we must, we have to call the reference provider’s company to verify their position.

Whenever possible, get a letter of reference. This is very helpful if, during the time of your job search, you are unable to locate your reference provider.

Give your reference a heads up. Make sure your reference provider knows that you are listing them as a reference, and they agree to this. Recruiters have many stories of irritated people who say they have no idea why they are being asked to supply a reference and don’t want to do so. These are not people to make your champions.

Tell your reference what type of role you’re going for. Let your reference provider know the type of job you’re applying for, and the skills it demands. This way, they’ll be able to respond more appropriately to questions.

Test the waters. Make a point of asking, “What type of reference will you provide me?” This way, you’ll know whether you want this person as your reference or not.

Be upfront with your recruiter. If you believe your reference may have areas of concern, tell your recruiter about it. We understand, and honesty is always the best policy.

Be sure the employment dates and job title on your resume are accurate. Recruiters will check these with your references so don’t adopt unofficial titles for yourself. There are cases where you took on an acting role, but your title did not change. In those instances, consider putting the acting role in bracket next to your official title. For example: Senior Programmer (acting team lead).

Recruiters prefer to call three references. And you can list contacts at your volunteer work if you don’t have many references.

References almost always want to help you get a job, not stop you. Give your reference and your recruiter the accurate information they need, and let your expert recruiter handle the rest.

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