Why Are We Still Volunteering Our Friends To Be Our Job Reference (Without Telling Them)?

So the funniest thing happened at work this week. At my job I am short on staff, so I’ve been trying to fill a few positions. For one position in particular that I am hiring for, I was thisssssss close to calling that candidate with an offer, but then I called the first reference on their list.

Before I get into my story, I can tell you that hiring managers and recruiters don’t ALWAYS call your reference or even ask for one. For me, in particular, if I ask for a reference and call them, it’s because I just may need to get some answers (and comfort) for the few, minor red flags that may have popped up on your resume or in your interview. Your job reference can either make or break you, but for homegirl that I was ABOUT to hire, it BROKE.HER.DOWN. I mean this reference IMMEDIATELY removed her from the applicant pool – and I wasn’t sorry.

So yeah, back to my story, I was thisssssss close to officially offering a job to one candidate, but I wanted to talk to one or two of her references first. A few days after the candidate’s interview, I called the candidate back and asked for two references contact info and her relationship to them. The candidate excitedly gave me two references, and I told her I would be contacting the references within the next few days. I guess the candidate forgot to tell her references (or at least the first one) that she was using them as a reference. Around 10:30am I called Reference #1 and this was our convo:

Phone: Ring, ring, ring. Ring, ring, ring. Ring, ri-

Reference #1: *Indescribable loud noise in the background*

Me: Hello

Reference #1: *Indescribable loud noise in the background* again

Me: Hello

Reference #1: DANG I said hello!!!

Me: I’m sorry, but I’m [insert name] from [insert company]. I was calling because [candidate A] listed you as a reference. Do you have some time to answer a few questions?

Reference #1: Um yeah *changes voice*. Gimme one minute. —-

2 whole minutes later

Reference #1: So how can I help you?

Me: Can you tell me about [candidate A] and her relationship to you and your company?

Reference #1: Yes, she was my co-worker and we worked on the same project.

Me: Awesome, thank you very much. That’s all I needed to know.

*says goodbye and hangs up the phone*

As you can see, the call with Reference #1 was a hot mess, and it was a quick phone call because with the very first question that I asked, I could tell that this reference was not legit. The candidate informed me that she worked as a manager for Reference #1 – so as you can see the candidate and her reference had two, totally different stories. This caused me to feel that the candidate was dishonest and someone that wasn’t too bright – and this is the exact kind of person that I would not want to hire. Having someone that was obviously a friend as a reference didn’t work in her favor, and I wish she would have thought a little harder and smarter.

I will admit, I am not knocking those who use their friends as their job reference – hell I’ve done it before. But bro, you and I both know that every homegirl and homeboy that you have is not qualified to be a reference. As much as we love our friends and fam, the reality is that some of them do not have the best phone etiquette and may not know what to say or how to act as a reference. Before you hand over your friends or fam numbers over to a company as your reference, make sure you are giving them the names and numbers for folks that are reliable and professional.

Also, make sure you don’t forget to tell them that they are a reference and that you tell them what needs to be said. Don’t have them answering the phone as your reference and ya’ll are not on the same page. This will never work in your favor.

Normally I don’t like to give advice like this because I feel like everyone should practice honesty and everyone should have real references, but if you are going to try to beat the system with a fake reference, you have to be smart about it.

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