Reference check prior to interview?!
April 1, 2014 5:16 AM   Subscribe

An employer contacted my references today (it is a condition of the application that you list your references up front). I haven't been advised of an interview. The first catch is that this is an old employer who I used to temp for. I know that manager thinks highly of me.

The second catch is that I applied for a permanent position while I was still temping with them (and he knew what I was like at that point--he had started in the job 2 months prior to this and my contract ended 2 weeks after I failed to get the job), and he did not contact my references prior to the interview.

Is this unprofessional behaviour? It is not typical in our industry for references to be contacted prior to interview.

posted by glache to Work & Money (8 answers total)
It's weird, I'll grant that, but it's also efficient. I guess by doing references up front, you can rule out folks who didn't get good references?

Personally, I don't get the whole reference thing anymore. A former employer can't really say much, most employers just verify that you worked there for whatever time frame. And who in their right mind would list references who wouldn't say nice things about them?

At any rate so what? Are you bothered by it? Are you trying to read into it? Are you asking because you think it's beyond weird and are now considering removing your name from the list? Are you trying to figure out if this means you'll get the job without an interview?

At this point no one can say. Roll with it and see what happens, but apply elsewhere, if you're this puzzled by what's happening before the interview, does working there portend well?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:26 AM on April 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Well all of the above did cross my mind. At first I thought they were trying to be efficient but then I thought well he knows what I'm like so I don't know what efficiency he's gaining there. Then I thought well, if I'm that bothered by it, should I remove my name from the list. And yes I'll admit for a mad second there I thought I might get the job without an interview (but as it's a government position, it would be impossible to carry off). I dunno. Your advice to roll with it is sound.
posted by glache at 5:44 AM on April 1, 2014

I haven't done it this way but could easily see doing it. And it's likely they are doing this with all applicants to quickly weed the stack down, so no special treatment/snowflakedness for you. The company I work for automatically sends out job reference letters/checks once you put an application in and personal checks are up to each Director.

Why do we check referenences? It's all part of the winnowing process. Sometimes mes people really do not have someone to speak up for them so will put false phone numbers or no phone number, work differences are about 40/60 offering any to no pertinate info, so it's worth checking, basically checking is just due dilegence .
posted by edgeways at 7:19 AM on April 1, 2014

Did your employer make the call or was it an agency? Because one unsavory but not unusual agency practice is to use the reference check on a candidate as an excuse to call the reference, but the purpose of the contact is actually a sales call. In that context, the reference call can be made at any time, irrespective of the candidate's status (or even likelihood of being placed.)

And while that situation may not be applicable here, it does speak to the fact that reference-checking can be an excuse for personal calls, hey-do-you-have-anyone-better-than-this-I-could-talk-to calls, sales calls, anything a person might want a good excuse to pick up the phone for.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:42 AM on April 1, 2014

A bad employer did this to me. I'd consider it a red flag.
posted by ziggly at 9:20 AM on April 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

@edgeways: at this stage it's just a written job reference. But you've made an interesting point because maybe he did contact them beforehand in my last application but neither of them told me about it--person A I was working with at the time, and person B I had worked with just a few months previously. The only reason I found out about this is because the same person A asked me what dates I had worked there (it's edging 2 years ago now) and that gave me the heads up to notify person C.

@ziggly: that's what I'm worried about. But this guy is known to be--for a lack of a better word--incestuous with his work relationships. He really surrounds himself with good people (all his temps are through recommendations from his current employees, all of whom are really good) and I wouldn't put it past him to obtain the people he wants in a not-strictly professional manner.

Anyway I've decided to ask person A if he was approached last time as well beforehand. I think that's the only way to settle the question in my mind and we'll go from there.
posted by glache at 1:19 PM on April 1, 2014

I should clarify: I'd already interviewed and wasn't sure it was a great fit. They went ahead and called a person I would have put on my list of references, but I hadn't actually provided the list yet. They just happened to know each other already (this was also a pretty incestuous group, in that there was lots of professional/personal overlap, which is also why I had known about the job to begin with.) I hadn't properly considered it all yet and it turned into "We already talked to someone when can you start?" and I felt pressured into accepting. It turned out to be a terrible fit. So I'd proceed with caution.
posted by ziggly at 10:52 AM on April 2, 2014

For the benefit of any future readers: I had my references checked before interview for a government job, (an Australian state government job), although it was after they had contacted me to arrange the interview. At least in my part of the world, government recruitment is generally slow and highly regulated, so the panel were trying to speed things up as much as they could while still doing everything by the book. In the end they were held up by other parts of the process, and in the end I bombed in the interview and didn't get the job, but there was nothing nefarious going on.
posted by Cheese Monster at 3:39 AM on September 11, 2014

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