Horror Story - Just In Time for Halloween

On the blog, Ask A Manager, the author Alison Green, relates the following story:

If you've ever thought that checking references is a waste of time, this blog is dedicated to you:

Green had a candidate she was eager to hire - he wowed everybody during his interview and had the skill set needed to get the job done. When reviewing the reference list, she noticed that he didn't include anyone from the last two jobs he held even though he stated that his current employer knew he was looking for work. His references were dated and included a professor though he had several jobs since he graduated.

Are these red flags, or was this just a case of a guy who wasn't clear how to put a reference list together?

Upon Green's request, the candidate put her in touch with his two most recent managers - and he complied. Feeling optimistic, Green contacted them.

The perfect candidate was actually fired from his last two jobs for theft and  fraud, serving jail time for the crime.

Green handled the reference list perfectly but many hiring managers might not notice this descrepency. Some might not even have bothered to check references at all. Green suggests each hiring manager use the following tips:


  • Don't limit yourself to the candidate's list of references. If they don't offer managers as referencesw, ask to be put in touch with some.
  • Call the company switchboard. Don't assume that a direct line or a cell phone number dials the person who's name is shown. "It's not unheard of for candidates to give you a friend's phone number so the friend can pose as a former boss."
  • Ask the right questions - force the reference giver to answer specific questions "If you had to pick two ways Joe could improve, what would they be?"