how long should a reference check take? by Alison Green on June 23, 2012 A reader writes: I’ve been in the process of applying and interviewing for a particular job for a few weeks now. Everything has gone smoothly enough, and except for one short delay after my second interview, they’ve met all the timelines they’ve given me about when they expected to get to the next step along the way. The job itself is one I’m very excited about, and I think it matches what I want to be doing much better than my current job does. Ten days ago, I got an e-mail saying that they were going to start the reference and background check process, and they asked if there was anyone I’d prefer they check with last (two of the four references I’ve given are at my current job, including my current supervisor). I’m in a pretty good place here, and my supervisor knows I’m looking to do something different. She’s supportive of that, even though she’s said several times that she will hate to see me go, and has said she’d be very pleased to do whatever she could in terms of giving me a reference. So, I contacted my references, let them know that the process was getting to that stage, and that they would probably be contacted soon. I know they contacted two of my references (the ones I don’t currently work with: a former co-worker who now works for this company, and a former supervisor) about two days after they told me they’d be checking references. Since then, nothing. Neither of my other references have heard anything, either. Should I follow up with them again and ask if they need anything else from me? Has it taken long enough that I should just move on? I get the idea of employer time vs. candidate time, and I’m trying to be patient, but I’m just not sure what is the right thing to do here. Sure, check back with them. Don’t ask if they need anything else from you though, since if the answer is no, you’ll have no more information than you have right now. Instead, ask if they have a timeline for making a decision. Since the two references they haven’t contacted are people you currently work with, it’s possible that they’re deliberately skipping those out of a desire not to jeopardize your current employment (even though you gave them permission). Or it’s possible the process is just dragging out for some reason — someone’s out sick or on vacation, higher priority work that came up and needs to be dealt with, a budget question that needs to be resolved before they can make the hire, a decision-maker who hasn’t had time to act, etc. Or they might have had other interviews to complete, which would delay everything. Or, it’s possible that they have an offer out to someone else and they’re waiting for an answer from that person before they get back to you. Plus, even at reasonably efficient companies, this stage of the process can slow down, as a decision needs to be made, various people often need to sign off, offer paperwork needs to be pulled together, etc. It’s also possible — although frankly, less likely — that they heard something from one of the first two references that gave them pause. How confident are you that those references are glowing, and in particular that they would be glowing for this type of work? In any case, it’s completely reasonable to check in with them since it’s been nearly weeks since your last contact. Send a quick email, reiterate your interest, and ask if they can give you a sense of when they’ll be making a decision. Good luck. You may also like:employers that ask for references but never call themcan I push back on an extensive pre-employment check?should I be worried that my manager doesn’t return calls for references?