Here's A New One - A Candidate Who Will Not Supply References

As we are nearing the end of the interview process, a client asked me to get references from a candidate.  I was blown away when the candidate emailed me and refused to supply references telling me that she did not want her references bothered until she had accepted the job.  First time this has happened in 27 years.

Now I have had a candidate who had a key reference at an existing company, but other references at previous employers and I made an offer pending the last reference, but this is the first time a candidate ever told me point blank no references.  I could have been pushed over with a feather.  I explained that she was putting herself at great peril for this job which she claimed she very much wanted.  I also explained that people don't mind giving references and that I was sure it would be no bother.  She asked me to have the entire offer completely negotiated and if she still wanted the job she would provide references.  I then explained that the enthusiasm of her references could conceivably affect the offer.  She still refused.

Has anyone ever had this experience?  For the first time in my recruiting career, I am dumfounded.

Views: 4521

Comment by Tim on February 24, 2012 at 11:21am

If you are on an exclusive and have a strong "back up" candidate I would tell her to hit the road. If that is not the case then convince her how inapropriate she is being and that an offer wont happen without references and stand y our ground. I would not represent a candidate that wanted to show a prospective employer that she is not receptive to their requests. It shows she would be a high maintenance employee and you would probably be replacing her in the future if it did come together anyway. Don't waste much more time with her.


Comment by Jeremy Spring on February 24, 2012 at 11:28am

I've never had a flat out refusal, but reluctance is not uncommon.  I think @John Kreiss's diagnosis is a good one, but probably  worth covering your ass on this one and dig a little deeper: she might be an axe murderer!

Comment by Kyle Schafroth on February 24, 2012 at 11:35am

@Jeremy - next blockbuster this summer, "So I Hired an Axe Murderer..."

I'm leaning towards John K's thoughts - unfortunate but we all know it's a fact of life that employees/candidates 'job search' to improve their current situation with no real intention of making a switch.

I know that we (I, however you want to word it) communicate to candidates that for all positions, an offer is contingent upon a fully completed background check - references, criminal, education, employment, etc.and the candidate provides a release form confirming this.

It might be a tad late at this point to implement but I would ask the client if there's any standard policy in use (i.e. we didn't just make this up on the spot to get your references) on reference/background checks to give you a little more push with the candidate.

If she can't see an offer until she relents the references it may just flush out some of the reasons behind her hesitancy and save you/the client a potential headache...or axe murderer.

Comment by Paul S. Gumbinner on February 24, 2012 at 11:45am

I appreciate all the comments.  I think she is just one of those overly buttoned up candidates who likes life tied up in a pretty bow.  I think I have been able to convince her it is in her interest to get me the references.  We shall see. 

Comment by Kyle Schafroth on February 24, 2012 at 11:48am

Life..pretty bow?! LIES!

I'm interested to hear how it turns out - best of luck Paul

Comment by Sandra McCartt on February 24, 2012 at 12:50pm
@paul, I have had this happen several times due to references knowing each other or being in a closely related industry where a reference check might actually "out" the candidate. I took the approach with my client that they don't require a drug test or background check until after an offer is made and accepted. The client agreed. We wrote the offer contingent upon acceptable reference, drug and background check. My take is that candidates do not provide references who are going to say anything negative and many companies will only confirm dates and position. We may be able to find out additional information about a candidate in a reference check but I can't remember a time when a reference check knocked a candidate out of a job. Several have been due to not passing a drug test or background check that reveal a job left off or dates that didn't jive or criminal activity , misrepresented educational background but references , have never had a candidate provide one that said anything negative.
Comment by Sandra McCartt on February 24, 2012 at 12:58pm
Many candidates are being told by "career consultants" they should not provide references until after an offer is made. When I get that speech I ask them to put themselves in the position of being the hiring authority or many times they will agree to let me check the references without revealing the name of the hiring company.
Comment by Paul S. Gumbinner on February 24, 2012 at 1:52pm

@Sandra: I have had all of your examples at one time or another but never had a candidate who simply refused with no reason.  I am now negotiating with her and I think it will work out ok.  I have actually had a candidate give me a reference who, when I called, said: "Why would he give my name. I have fired him twice."  Fortunately it was me and I discovered the source of the dislike.  Honestly true:  The candidate used to date the wife of the reference and it ended badly. I was actually able to get a decent commentary from him and then told the candidate, who got the job incidentally, never to use this person as a reference again.  You can't make this stuff up!

Comment by Elise Reynolds on February 24, 2012 at 2:07pm

I would agree there is something going on here, this refusal.  She sounds like trouble in the making.

I too have had candidates that had a hard time with references due to all the pertinent references being at the current employer.  Old coworkers and bosses being scattered to the wind or unavailable.   The candidate explained the situation and we worked it out.  We came up with a plan that satisfactory to both sides.

Just as a reasonable employer would never want a candidate to do anything to put their current employment in danger during the interview process.; A reasonable candidate knows that references are a very standard expectation when getting hired.   This lady has some control issues I suspect and will cause problems for her employer if hired. 

For the record I prefer to check references towards the end of the interview stage where it appears an offer not yet made is expected.  OR if a candidate lives in a different city from the prospective job I will check the references as soon as interest has been established by the client but before the candidate travels for the interview. 

Comment by Sandra McCartt on February 24, 2012 at 2:21pm

@ Paul That is hilarious.  That candidate has to live in a pink cloud to give a reference who has fired him twice and he dated that guys wife.  Now that one i would worry about.  :)


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