Lately when I go on job interviews, they want your three references right away. Sometimes they ask for your references before you've even talked to a live interviewer on the phone! I think they forget that my references are busy people who don't want their names and numbers all over creation. They want to be my references, but they want to know something about the job I'm applying for before they start answering questions about me, and I can't tell them anything about the job if I haven't even talked with a recruiter yet.
Do I need to hand over my references at the very start of the process, when I submit my resume online? Is that reasonable or standard? You've been an HR chief, so I'm relying on you to give me the straight scoop. Thanks,
Hang onto those references until you've had at least one 'real' (face-to-face) job interview! There are scams all over the place. You may be submitting your resume, and your references, into something even worse than the standard corporate Black Hole -- you may be giving your resume and your references' names, phone numbers and email addresses to an online scammer, who could use that information for nefarious purposes.
I've heard of three recent situations (one with a state university, one a private company and one a public company) where references were requested (demanded) very early in the process, before the job-seeker had met anyone in the organization in person.
In all three cases, the references were used in inappropriate ways. At the university, my friend's three references were never called about his qualifications for the role, but they were called & hit up for donations to the university! In the case of the private employer, the HR person called the references to ask them "Is this applicant strong enough to justify our expense in flying her to New York?" The reference-givers' time was considered less valuable than the company's airline dollars! You can't get much tackier than that.
In the last case, the three references were added to the company's marketing newsletter subscription list. How lovely! Hang onto your references until there's a mutual interest (i.e., after a face-to-face interview, at least). If the folks who are considering hiring you don't respect you right out of the chute and all through the selection process, Ben, they don't deserve you. They will say "This is just our process," the lamest non-excuse ever.
I was a Fortune 500 HR VP for ten million years, and I can tell you that sort of drivel is just another way of saying "We say we value talent, but we actually don't." If they did, they'd show it.
If an employer insists on having your references right at the beginning of the process, politely tell them that you know they'd understand why you must meet them in person before feeling comfortable sharing such sensitive information. Appeal to the recruiter's or HR person's excellent upbringing. "You can understand, of course," you'll say, "why I'd love to share my references' names and contact information a bit later in the process, once there's a mutual interest."
If they push you, back out of the deal. Say, "I understand that you have a policy that requires you to get references from applicants at the beginning of the interview process, and I'm afraid I'm not able to go forward with you for that reason. I take my references' time and privacy very seriously. I wish you folks the best." Run away! If they don't respect you during the selection process, how likely are they to respect you once you've got the job?
There are plenty of good employers. You don't need to grovel to get a good job, and the more they ask you to grovel, the more quickly you should bail on a situation like that.
Follow Liz Ryan on Twitter: @asklizryan