Should You Provide References Before Being Interviewed?

By Gerald Walsh ©

Some employment ads instruct you to include the names of your references when you submit your application. That’s right, even before you’ve had the first interview.

The question is: Should you comply and send along the names? Or, should you risk upsetting the employer by not including them.

While it’s not unheard of for an employer to ask for references prior to the first interview, I urge you to exercise caution and not go along with the employer’s request.

Here’s why:

The most common practice is for the prospective employer to ask for references later in the hiring process. This would normally happen after the employer has interviewed you and expressed interest in your candidacy.

At this stage they may be trying to decide among a few candidates and want to seek the opinions of others to help them decide on their top candidate, before making an offer.

Providing references in advance opens the door to the possibility that the employer will call one or more of these references before you even know if you really want the job. This could end up being embarrassing for you, particularly if your references are linked somehow to your current employer.

You probably don’t want your current employer aware that you are applying for jobs elsewhere.

Related: Should I List My Current Boss As A Reference?

Plus it is also inconvenient for your references who are willing to give their time to help you with your job search. You don’t want to take advantage of their generosity by bothering them too often, nor do you want to make their contact information public. 

There’s one other reason why you should only provide references later in the process.

By sending references after you’ve had the first interview and now know more about the company and the job, you will have an opportunity to select your best references for the job you’ve applied for.

Related: Will My References Help Me Or Hurt Me?

The ideal strategy is to have a long list of potential references available – perhaps as many as seven or eight people – even though you will only have to provide three or four names in the end.

If you have more than you need, you can select the ones who can best speak about your suitability for that particular job and increase your chances of getting the job offer.?


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Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and author. He is the author of “PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career. You can follow Gerry on Twitter @@Gerald_Walsh