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: 3285

Comment by Andrew Hanneman on February 24, 2012 at 4:26pm

I used to try to work with people like this but after getting burned multiple times, if you are a great employee, you will have some super/manager that loves you and would be more than willing to provide reference and not alert mgmt. 

Comment by Gordon Alderson on February 24, 2012 at 7:52pm

I suggest you call the candidate and ask them:

"Let's say my client make you an offer in writing. Then you let your current boss know that you intend leaving to take it up.  What will you say to your boss if he/she makes you a counter-offer that is say 15 percent better than the offer being made by my client?"

The answer will be instructive in a number of ways.

If your candidate says they will stay for the pay rise you can point out that their current boss ismore than likely to fire you within 12 months on their terms rather than allowing you to leave on your terms.

If you candidate says they will take the job being offered by your client anyway but that they are still unwilling to provide you with their references then ask the candidate if they will please put that in writing to you so that you can take that assurance to your client.

Comment by Bill Schultz on February 26, 2012 at 2:10pm
If she is on linked in or you know anyone who works at her current company, just ask them. Everyone does back door references these days.
Comment by Scott Craighead on February 28, 2012 at 8:49am

I'm inclined to think she is not a risk taker and doesn't want to suggest to a reference that she might be considering another employer. But if her resume suggest short tenure at previous employers, I'm not so sure.  Regardless, let us know how it plays out if you could.

Comment by Zachary Sines on February 29, 2012 at 8:45am

I think this is a red-flag that I wouldn't tolerate.  I am all about the candidates, but if they don't want me to check their references, there has to be a better reason why than that she is afraid someone will find out.  She more than likely has burned multiple bridges in the past.  My advice?  I would call the companies she use to work for, ask for HR, and then get an employment verification.  That isn't too aggressive, because you are just making sure she hasn't lied about her resume.  If all goes well with that check, then I would tell the client to make the offer tentative pending references, but then also tell them what I did...just so everyone knows things will go well.

I am sure people will disagree with me, but if I am putting my reputation on the line with one of my clients, I am going to make damn sure it isn't tarnished by a difficult candidate.  Hard-ball is met with hard-ball, not weakness and folding.

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