checking references without intent to make an offer

A reader writes:

Do potential employers ever check a/some/all candidates’ references with no intent to present an offer to a/some/all of the candidate(s)?

And where is the reference check in relation to the rest of the candidate choosing process?

Only if they’re insane. Checking the references of a candidate you have no interest in hiring would be a complete waste of time — why would you bother? Unless you work at some crappy, inefficient company that insists that you check references across the board, this would make no sense — and if you do, you should quit because that company is ridiculous.

Personally, I check references only post-interviews, once I know who my top one or two candidates are. It’s my final step before making an offer. Candidates should strongly prefer this, too, since it protects your references from fatigue.

{ 12 comments… read them below }

  1. Just another HR lady...*

    LOL…I only check references when I have my top one or at most two candidates. I can’t see why anyone would waste their time and the referees time if there was no intent to make an offer. If your references were checked, and you didn’t receive an offer, you were most likely #2 in the competition, and would have gotten an offer if the #1 candidate did not accept.

  2. Anonymous*

    Two possible explanations for a reference check without an offer:

    1. You were the second runner up for the position and the top choice accepted. Although, I wouldn’t check references until I was going to offer, so if the top choice declined the offer, I would then go ahead and check #2’s references. I am not interested in wasting time.


    2. Something came up during the reference check that made me decide this candidate was not a match for us. You’d be surprised what can surface during reference checks…

  3. Anonymous*

    I work for a seasonal recreational company. We hire about 200 new staff each season to add to the 300 or so that return each year. I process about 600 applications from January through May and I have a full time reference checker from Feb-April.
    We have to, there are too many applicants, and over half are hired based on a phone interview and how their references turned out. They have to have two good references before I even give the application to a manager.
    But then, we aren’t like a “normal;” company.

  4. Denny*


    I gave nearly 3 rounds of interviews each spanning 1 month between them, even though I was told that the selection process would happen in weeks. I gave my last round via skype on friday and after the interview she asked my references and told me that she will get back to me on Monday after she checks with them. I have still not heard anything from her . (Tuesday being a bank holiday) am i being Impatient?

  5. Naomi*

    I was called for a telephone interview a month after I applied for a position, then called in for an in person interview that also went well. After sending a follow up email, I was asked to submit to a background check. I heard nothing at all for 2 months when I was asked for the contact information for my references who were all contacted the following day. I sent another follow up email and was told they had been in touch with all my references and we’re still reviewing. I know I may be over analyzing, but what is your take on this?

  6. Mrs. Jones*

    I interviewed with a company on November 5th that I appeared to be very qualified for. The interview went very well and prior to leaving the manager requested my references and I handed over a list of 3. I received a phone call on Friday from the HR rep requesting the references, I provided them to her, she called back on Monday and requested a manager reference and I provided her with 2. I know that she contact 1 of the 2 on Wednesday and they provided her with a good reference. I emailed the 2nd manager the same day I gave the HR rep the contact information to ask whether I can use him as a manager and he never replied to my email. It has only been about 4 business days since providing her with the manager reference and exactly 2 weeks since interviewing for the position. I am nervous and not sure what to think. Should I follow-up to make sure she was able to contact the 2nd manager or just hold tight?

  7. Zebediah*

    I just received an offer (from a Fortune 100 company} that is contingent on successful reference checks. Is it reasonable (and sane) to accept, but insist on a notice period that elapses from the time I’m advised that my references have checked out?

  8. Mike*

    I’m in the same predicament. My references checks were completed last Thursday (Wednesday today) and I have yet to hear from them. I wonder what can be taking them so long to make an offer. Do they complete the background checks before they check the references? Maybe that’s what is holding up the process.

  9. tom*

    I interviewed for a professional position and all 3 of my references were checked with positive reviews within 24 hours. 2 months later I have still have gotten a rejection email even after I have contacted them 3 times with only receiving one reponse of “we have not made a decision”.

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