I recommend my clients do both a background check and reference check of their new team member candidates. Why?

As it relates to reference checks, you would be amazed at the number of candidates who select inappropriate references such as their Aunt, girlfriend, or college roommate. Additionally, about 25% of the time my candidates give me references who provide a poor endorsement, or who never respond to the reference inquiry (a delay in response or non-response allows me to use my imagination as to why…which means I will likely imagine the reference has nothing good to say!).

By providing references fitting into one of the above categories you are showing you are unable to evaluate yourself appropriately and are therefore unable to select references who will shed you in a positive light.

How do you select references you are sure will give you glowing recommendations?

1. Select supervisors, managers, or mentors who have given you work direction or provided you career coaching and guidance.

2. Ensure your references are recent. If you fail to provide references for your last couple of positions this will raise a huge flag.

3. Speak to your references before providing their contact information to a potential employer. Ask them if they will give a good recommendation, tell them about the job, and let them know what specific skills or qualities they should relay to the hiring manager.

4. Provide both an email and phone number for each reference to your potential employer so she can both call and email the references. This will double the chances of connecting to the references and ensure a quicker response.

5. Go above and beyond! If your potential employer asks for three references, provide six. This is powerful. Not only will over-providing quicken the process but will show what a strong professional you are.

Background checks are a different beast and many people believe they cannot have a positive impact to the results of a background check…especially if they have a criminal record. I would disagree! Here are some tips on how to ensure a positive outcome to any background check:

1. Employment History: This is the number one area I see people making mistakes. If you ignore every other tip in this article, please pay attention to this one:

Never stretch your employment dates to make it look like you don’t have gaps in employment. A background check will verify your dates of employment and if you stated you were working “until Present” but you were really let go 6 months ago, this will cost you the job opportunity. If you have employment gaps, explain them, but don’t hide them (for more information on how to handle employment gaps, go here)!

Never fib about your job title. If you were a Research Assistant, don’t state you were a Project Manager. If you performed some Project Management tasks, list those responsibilities, but don’t stretch your actual title.

2. Education: Never fib about your education on your resume. If you didn’t get that degree, don’t make it look like you did! I would also recommend you not be vague on your resume about your education, certifications, or training. Be open and honest about your qualifications.

3. Credit history, driving records and your criminal and court records: A negative response to any of these areas during a background check can be devastating. My recommendation is to be upfront about any issues before the background check is performed…actually the earlier in the hiring process you tell the recruiter and hiring manager, the better!

I hope you found this article useful.

Investing in a Lifetime of Success,

Angela Roberts


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