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Don't Provide Your References to a Recruiter Until After Your Last Interview (kvonhorn.github.io)
489 points by kvonhorn on June 27, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 213 comments

I got an email from a local recruiter a few weeks ago and stepped outside during my lunch break to give her a call. On the initial phone call she asked me where I worked currently. After the call I stepped back into my work where I sit back to back with my manager. No more than 5 minutes later his phone rings, its the recruiter calling to see if they have any need of her services. I emailed her while he was on the phone with the recruiter and told her I was not interested and to please remove me from her list for all future positions. That was a stressful 5 minutes.

I ran small recruitment agency for one year long (never again! terrible sharks industry). During that time I saw many non-ethical tactics used by other agencies. Some recruiters would do what you explain for one of the the following reasons:

a) to blackmail the company in the likes of “I won’t touch your employees if you recruit using my services from now on”.

b) already had a signed agreement with your employeer which didn’t allow the recruitment agency to “touch” any of its employees. You seemed like a match for their new client and the recruiter was checking if your employer agreement was still valid. Of course, this is also seen as blackmail by companies.

This sounds like something which should be transparently open, public knowledge, and public listings...

Can we please just have a matching service run by the unemployment office and also require salary / compensation range for the listed job? (Also that it IS an actual job and not head hunters collecting resumes.)

Why should agreements between private companies be public knowledge?

How is this shady? I worked with a recruiting agency that had a contract to find employees/contractors for a company. I was hired by my last employee through the recruiting agency. I then started working with the agency as a team lead to hire developers.

It would have been unethical for them then to try to place me somewhere else, especially with the inside knowledge they had about the company.

When I was looking for a job, while I was still there. The recruiters I had worked with for years before I started working for thier client, wouldn’t touch me with a ten foot pole. Fair enough. Now that I don’t work for one of thier clients they would be glad to work with me.

... is there Yelp for recruiters? Because I'd want to know a recruiter pulls stunts like that before I work with them.

Have you ever seen Yelp reviews for car salespeople?

Recruiters are the used car salespeople of the hiring world. There’s no point in a review system where everyone averages out to 0 stars.

I liked the following analogy:

Recruiters are like pimps, but without the morals And pimps usually dress better.

Strongly disagree. I hope you are being hyperbolic. While there is certainly a wide range in competency and the level of value provided by recruiters, many of them are MUCH better than zero stars.

Yes but the unscrupulous ones will be happy to give and receive fake reviews. The more honest ones won't. So it will be hard to tell the difference between a bad recruiter (fake positive and real negative reviews) and a good recruiter (real positive and fake negative reviews).

It's actually really easy. My standard test for potential recruiters: Tell me something about myself. This takes a tiny amount of work -- anybody who has my email address can google me and find a huge amount of stuff. A recruiter who is not bothered to do that will not be bothered to find a job that's good for me.

When I find a good recruiter, I stick with them (as long as I'm shopping in the area that they deal with). I make sure they know that. If a recruiter is good enough that they can value a long term relationship as opposed to frantically trying to meet their sales targets every month, then they are a good recruiter.

The downside is that there are practically no good recruiters ;-). If I'm seriously looking for a job, I look as hard for recruiters as I do for a job. Often I find the job before the recruiter.

I don't think this would work. Anyone that is already using shady business practices wouldn't object to posting a few fake reviews of themselves and their competitors either.

Not to mention that many people burned by those business practices may not even realize they got burned. There's a lot of information asymmetry in the telephone game of candidate -> recruiter -> hr -> hiring manager.

People will post fake reviews but I don't think that means this necessarily wouldn't work. It would certainly be challenging though.

I've checked out https://app.recruitsy.co/ (no affiliation) if you're in one of the more common roles/locations where you receive a lot of inquiries. A directory like this needs to exist.

They nearly all pull stunts like that.

This is a fantastic idea.

I've been told this is illegal as the recruiter is harming your prospects at your current job...

What law is that?

Tortious interference

This comment is very helpful, for anyone that hasn't had this experience, learn from this one.

How did they get your email without knowing where you work?

I'm not the person you asked, but my LinkedIn profile is very out of date, and only lists my personal email address.

> I do know that my manager called me up pissed off about the phone call he’d received, and told me to not use him as a reference in the future.

It's also important for your references to know that they're your references ahead of time. You may think you have a good relationship with someone only to discover that they aren't a reliable positive reference. People also don't like being caught off guard.

This is so important!

Story time:

I once hired someone as a Mid/Senior Dev at a large company in SV who had strong dev skills. Everything seemed great at first and we were very excited to have this person join the team.

I respected this dev and had no personal issues with them. Our interactions were positive. However this person quit suddenly after maybe two weeks because they didn't like having to justify their technical approach on their very first project to other team members. They just wanted to work alone and not interact with anyone else.

More power to this dev for seeking out their preferred work environment - I totally respect that! - but it wasn't exactly a positive experience for us. We spent weeks and weeks with Recruiting/HR and back and forth on offers to finally end up with someone who quit without any warning after mere days.

And of course I get a phone call a few weeks later where this dev (without contacting me in any way) has listed me as a reference for their new job. What do they think I am going to say? "Yes, during the multiple days this person worked with me before they quit, they seemed smart?"

Please don't sabotage yourself like that. Check with your references first!

I’ll second this for a different set of reasons.

Firstly, if you talk to your reference about the position you are applying for they will be in a better position to give meaningful feedback. I’ve been able to take somebody from a “maybe” to a hire because I knew how their interview went and their perceived weaknesses.

Secondly, you want to make sure that the person isn’t just going to be cold called—ideally they can set up a time over email so it’s at a good time. One time, while checking my reference the company called and somebody else picked up their phone as they weren’t in. They then proceeded to tell them that they’ve never heard of me and that I didn’t ever work there.

> They then proceeded to tell them that they’ve never heard of me and that I didn’t ever work there.

I did that to my boss once when I worked at a temp agency, someone called asking about employment history so I dutifully typed the name into the computer and was like "nope, looks like they've never worked here." Right after I hung up the phone I was like "wait a minute..." Office staff wasn't in the workers database so we couldn't cut ourselves checks and I totally spaced on the last name.

Amen! The reference check takes work for both you and the reference. Never give it out early because there is prep time for everyone.

Are you legally allowed to mention that? I thought references could only verify if you worked for the company, or otherwise risk being sued. Maybe that's a myth? Regardless, it's pretty odd he would put your company down as a reference after only staying two weeks.

You're thinking employment verification, or checking that the places you listed on your work history are correct. As an employer, you open yourself up to litigation if you say anything more than dates and titles. I mean there are stories of employers being called about a past, problematic employee, and saying things like "I could get sued if I told you how their performance was, wink wink." But... :-)

I don't believe in Colorado it is illegal to say anything more, it's just not worth it to risk possible litigation.

TIL, thanks. I guess I thought employment verification and references were roughly the same thing, which sounds silly now that I think about it.

That is a CYOA policy that many companies have, not a law. In the US, you are legally in the clear as long as you aren't telling outright falsehoods unless you have some form of explicit NDA.

> CYOA (Cover Your Own Ass/Arse): an alternative form of the slang phrase Cover your ass

I think that might be a US thing. The rest of the world is much less litigousb (alhough you could still be in trouble if you actually lied)

References can say whatever they want.

Well, depending on what you mean by that, it isn't necessarily true.

If you mean "References can say whatever they want without any potential legal ramifications", that's not true. If you say anything that is demonstrably false about the former employee, you can be sued under defamation laws (and, yes, you can lose). Of course what it was that you actually said (and the potential harm done to the former employee) makes a huge difference as to their chances of winning such a lawsuit.

This is one of the reasons many employers have the policy of only confirming that a former employee has in fact worked for the company in the past. Usually it is because their legal team (or for smaller companies, just the lawyer they use) have advised them not to give out anything further.

References can be (and have been) sure for giving a review that keeps a person from getting a job.

If I’m in a position where I can’t give a good reference, I don’t give a reference at all.

Which is probably a good policy for a lot of other reasons.

I think you're thinking of HR being only able to say that the person worked there in some places.

You are always at risk of being sued. But if some had listed you directly as a reference you should feel you have more freedom than if you are just listed as a former employer.

You don't say anything. You transfer the person to your HR dept and they only confirm employment.

Eh. He probably just didn't like the team/felt that they didn't know what they were doing/they wasted more time on meetings and discussion in general rather than him just not wanting to justify his approach.

I just can't imagine being able to judge that in a two week period unless it's a total shit show. I have no reason to doubt the GP and I think its more likely this is just a case of "I know better".

And honestly unless the hiring manager straight up lied during interviewing that's the employees fault for not asking better questions about the position during the interview process.

So many people forget that interviews are a two way street. I don't want to hire someone that is going to be unhappy in the position because unhappy programmers have poor output and bring down team morale.

They need to ask specific questions about the things that are important to them in a job so I know they are really thinking about whether the position is right for them or not.

Candidates who ask me no questions after being prompted for them never make it past the phone screening interview despite sometimes being very technically capable.

It's difficult to get an accurate perception of a team without working with them for a bit.

Either way, trying to get a reference from a team you were only at for a few days seems ill-advised.

(btw, the comment you replied to never mentioned the gender of the person)

To clarify: you took issue with this person quitting mainly?

I'd be careful saying negative things about an employee for quitting - under at will laws, it can create legal liability to retaliate when someone exercises their at-will rights.

Stating the fact - that the GP knew him only for few days in a professional capacity - should be legal, rt? Any negative inference from that is left for the company doing the reference check.

Yes, stating "I only knew him/her a short time" wouldn't run afoul. It's when you venture into something like "I only knew him a short time - he quit shortly after being hired. I don't have a high opinion of him"

You're allowed to have opinions and share them. The problem comes if your opinion can be argued to be based on a legally protected action/characteristic.

This is why many HR departments don't like their employees giving out references, which really sucks since "Yes, this person was employed during [DATES] and was not fired" is not super helpful.

Besides, if an employees quits after two weeks because it was a bad match, that's actually good.

Sure, it's painful to find someone new. But it's a lot better than having to fire someone that who later. Or be stuck with someone who doesn't want to be there.

I wouldn't, so long as it sticks to facts. No need to be unreasonably negative.

"Honestly, he only worked here for two weeks, and then quit without notice. I didn't even know he'd use me as a reference."

"Honestly, I don't know how much help I'll be. He worked here for two weeks, and then turned in his resignation stating he wasn't comfortable discussing his work with others. I didn't realize I'd be a reference before you called".

These are facts, the first two easily verifiable in court - who would likely have no trouble believing the third.

Wouldn't it be the team lead's responsibility to look out for possible conflicts in the team and to act as a mediator?

Anecdote: I once listed three references. All three had favorable opinions of me. But I didn't tell any of them and they were unprepared to answer the questions that followed in a reference call.

One of them was able to wing it well. Second one answered questions flatly and without enthusiasm. A third was more nervous not to hurt me than he was confident he could help me with his answers.

I thought the surprise effect would be telling to my interviewers that the answers were not artificial.

Looking back, in a world where all interviews are artificial, why was I trying so hard to be different?

For most people, it takes conscious thought and effort to take an impression and articulate it. When you tell your references ahead of time, you're giving them a chance to take their impression/opinion/emotion of you and figure out how to put it into words ahead of time. There's nothing artificial about the outcome if you give them the time to do this. In fact it may seem more natural since they aren't nervous and on the spot!

Not to mention that by asking someone for a reference, you're asking them to do you a favor. So you should, y'know... actually ask them first.

> I thought the surprise effect would be telling to my interviewers that the answers were not artificial.

I tried this once for a job interview. I didn't prepare at all besides quickly scanning the company website.

It was a disaster. The position was for a PHP developer, and I accidentally mentioned that there is a lot of crappy PHP code in the world, in a way that made it sound like I didn't like PHP (I don't, but that's besides the point).

It didn't help that the interview was with an HR person. If it was with another developer, I would've been more than happy to elaborate on my opinion that there is a lot of poorly written PHP code, and that it is very easy to write poor quality PHP, but it is possible to write good (or acceptable) PHP.

That's the companies fault for interviewing you with a HR person. When I do the hiring for my teams I explicitly don't let non-technical people do more than the absolute most basic filtering (i.e this person can't spell for shit, this person doesn't have any experience etc).

In fact, I'd love to have some candidates come in and shit all over X language or Y library. It's a good sign as long as they stick to factual gripes and aren't just mindlessly ranting. People who don't care about doing the best possible job don't give a shit, they'll happily use whatever is popular on autopilot for years of their career.

All my interviewing has been for front-end so most of my interviewees are deeply entrenched in whatever the fad of the month cult is (Vue seems to be the June 2018 pick). I spend the second half of each interview begging them to give me some kind of discussion point, pros/cons of something, an opinion of their own, or literally anything other than the pseudo-marketing tripe on page 1 of their favourite library's documentation ("I love working with Typescript because it scales so well!" puke)

Sounds like your HR person didn't know what they were looking for ;)

> It's also important for your references to know that they're your references ahead of time.

It's always good practice to get someone's permission anyway before you pass on their contact details. If it's time critical and you need to put people in contact, you get the contact details of the person who's asking and you pass those details on to the person they want to talk to.

LinkedIn is also problematic as they could potentially tap common connections in your network without your knowledge.

I got a call from an external recruiter: "I have a candidate who would be a great fit for your company." I'm just a lowly data scientist with no hiring power, and at that job the entire data science team was quitting. So, I mentioned that I didn't think the team was growing since it seemed to be actively shrinking with no new reqs that I was aware of.

Recruiter immediately turned it around and said they could represent me and asked me to send them an (editable, e.g., Microsoft Word document) resume.

Nope nope nope nope nope. I'm not giving you a resume that you can modify however you see fit, only to cold call and cold email it around to random people you find on linkedin.

Yes once I've even been told that this employer requires a Word document as Resume.

So I converted my full generated resume to PDF into a word document, line by line.

Turns out, it was only so they could slap their info on it, reword my words and produce a PDF.

I asked the employer later, they said they prefer PDF as it's easier to print.......... Snakes. They're leeches in snake skin.

Dude. It's one page of plain text. Maybe two pages. It will be transcribed by brute force in less than an hour, if need be. Probably by an unpaid intern.

You either want recruiters to help do all the leg work for you, or you don't. And you either want the job, or you don't.

If they have a policy of lubricating introductions under a branded letterhead, it's gonna go down that way.

The file format protects nothing. And by nothing, I mean absolutely nothing.

It doesn't even change the pace of what happens by slowing things down.

In the past, I've been a hiring manager receiving resumes treated this way by agencies.

They always, always screw them up. The resume is hard to read, formatted incorrectly or whatever. Most of the time, I simply went by the linkedin profile.

I've been in the situation of an interviewer, having to painfully show the skills the recruiter edited into their resume to get them an interview.

I absolutely agree with OP about being worried about edits, except I generally take it to the maximum extreme and don't use dedicated external recruiters at all when looking for work.

^Cut and paste.

My resume is not plain text..?

If it's encrypted, no one can read it, and thus it cannot be transcribed without a key file.

If a person can read the words, it can be transcribed and reduced to an unformatted string, including an amount of white-space padding.

If the information on your resume cannot survive a reduction to plain text, and still remain relevant, something is wrong, because that's the premise of a resume: to standardize job applicants.

I once got an email from a recruiter asking me if I was interested in a position at a company that he had a great working relationship with. I was the person doing the interviews for the position he was trying to hire for, and I'd never talked to him before in my life.

I also received a few times offers by recruiters for a company I was already in (and visible on linkedin).

> Nope nope nope nope nope. I'm not giving you a resume that you can modify however you see fit, only to cold call and cold email it around to random people you find on linkedin.

But... that's exactly the services a recruiter provides. Someone needs to make those calls if you want a new job, unless you feel that you're such a catch that you can rely exclusively on networking with former coworkers to find you new positions. Most people rely on recruiters to grease the social wheels needed to land them interviews.

I mean, it's not a glamorous profession, nor noble, nor particularly honorable. But don't indulge the conceit that recruiters are parasites. They do jobs you don't want to, so that you don't have to.

There's an alternative though, which is to do all of your fulltime recruiting in-house, and hire a software development agency instead of a recruiting agency to fill the gaps when you're short on employees.

The model of the recruiting agency is that they produce a headcount you're willing to hire, and once you do it they take a finder's fee and are no longer involved.

The model of the software development agency, when you manage them correctly (which is certainly non-trivial), is they produce code which your dev lead approves of via a transparent process which you have approved of, and they have an incentive to get their contract renewed every year. This keeps them honest.

IMO when understaffed, all software companies should contract out their least essential engineering to a well-supervised dev agency rather than rush the hiring process with some dumbo external recruiter. In my experience most of these recruiting agencies have no technical people at all, can't judge the quality of a candidate, and are basically just marketing operations trying to circulate as many resumes as they can.

> rely exclusively on networking with former coworkers to find you new positions

Maybe not exclusively, but having a strong network is one of (if not the) best ways to stay gainfully employed. The best jobs I’ve had were found through former coworkers, friends from conferences, or folks I’ve corresponded with on technical issues. Knowing and being respected by someone internal to a company typically bypasses the first two or three interview steps, insulates you from petty interviewers to a large degree, and overall greases the hiring wheels. Keeping in touch with former coworkers and cultivating friendships through conferences pays off tremendously!

It's very helpful, yes, for your third or fourth job. People fresh out of school - or going into a career change, or moving to a new city - typically do not have much of a 'professional network', at least of any relevance.

I've had good experiences and bad with recruiters - the bad ones, fortunately, from the employer's side of the table, although they can't have been good for the candidates in that case either.

They are parasites because they actively make it hard for people to find jobs adverts directly, by flooding job sites with their own adverts.

In the age of Google it should be relatively easy to search for job ads in a particualr area. But it isn't. Because 99.9% of the search results will be recruitment agencies.

When I search job sites for jobs within 5 miles of my home town, most of the results are actually for jobs in London, which is 30 miles away, because recruiters post ads for those jobs with the "misleading" location knowing that some people from my town will be willing to commute.

I've gotten those calls and emails, too. I typically mentally put those recruiters on a "do not use" list - if they're just randomly shotgunning every number and email at some company, what are the odds that they're good at any other part of their job?

If you have no hiring power, why do you talk to the recruiter at all? It seems none of your business to tell her the team is not growing.

Since I'm looking for a job these days I saw a recruiter post a story on LinkedIn. The story was about this TERRIBLE TREND of some workers "ghosting" recruiters. They describe a process where a recruiter talks to a prospective employee, the prospective employee might even interview with the company. ... and then the prospective employee stops responding to emails, phone calls, any messages.

It was theorized that these darned menials just don't know how to behave.

I couldn't help but think that the whole article was some sort of recruiter trolling thing because outside of jobs that I've gotten in the past ... every recruiter has ghosted me. Amusing that they'd complain about it themselves.

Talking to or working with recruiters is just a constant pain. They don't know anything about the actual technical side of my job (those that say they do know even less it seems) and I have to do this dance with them to fit their expectations and such.

Can I please talk to the technical guy now? It will take us maybe 5 min to know if we should keep talking or not...

A few years ago, I decided to try working with a recruiter. I had never worked with one before, and I wasn't sure what to expect.

But the first thing the guy did was spam my resume to like 60 something different companies. Eventually I decided not to work with him, and he warned me that if I got hired by any of the companies he spammed within 6 months, he was entitled to some sort of payment. I didn't know who he sent it out to, or if he was even telling the truth, so I just held off on getting a new job for a while.

You're not required to pay him, obviously, but that doesn't mean you're "free". A lot of companies will only pay a referral or fee if a recruiter brings them new people they don't know about. So those 60 companies who received your resume may have already filled the position it was sent in for, but they still entered your information into their database and keep your resume on file. So if/when you start working with a legitimate recruiter, they may not get paid as much or not at all. And obviously once the recruiter realizes that they may not push hard to get you the job, or even steer you towards other companies that will pay full price.

I had a somewhat similar situation happen. A company I wanted to work for had a place on their website to apply for jobs, and I found one I was interested in and applied for. I never heard from them. A friend of mine who worked there eventually asked me about another opening, and they had a referral program where he'd get a few $k. After he talked to HR they said he'd get no referral since I was already in their system. I told him to ask why they never contacted me and he said their response was "Oh, we pretty much never look at applications submitted online".

It didn't strike me at the time as to how shady that conduct was until later. Fortunately I went somewhere else anyway.

The line between just a recruiter, a bad recruiter, and scams seem to be blurring.... :(

Even looking for a job you hit scams, I've been on legit job sites and been hitting a lot of "fake jobs" that lead you elsewhere and ask for a credit card up front. Like WTF.... hey LinkedIn, this scam job has been up for a week man.

Personally I wouldn't mind working with a GOOD recruiter, but I've given up on being able to tell the difference / know their intentions.

Being a contractor in the UK for the last 13 years i quickly learned when i first started that any recruiter that asks for references before they've even sent the CV to the client is a lying cheating scumbag and will get told outright where to go.

All they are doing it looking for leads.

Recruiters in the UK are much sleazier than in the US, in my experience.

Oh yes, with a special mention to the UK recruiters working on the German market. Had one trying to convince me for one full hour to accept a salary of 48-50k to relocate to Munich, where rent for me and my family would have been more than half my monthly salary.

I still remember his best two lines: 1. I placed a guy from your country at the same company and he had a salary of 35k and three kids and a dog and he did very well for himself!

2. look, the company is offering fruits every week as a benefit to employees. If you eat fruit, you can save up to 50 EUR per week!

I did end up in the job, after the HR from the company tried a second round of negotiations and were were much more flexible (more salary, bigger relocation bonus). Unfortunately, there were bigger problems there, so I had to quit after about 2 months, which meant, probably, no bonus for them. Also, we would got like 30EUR worth of fruit for 20 people every week

This goes for Australia, considering most tech recruiters in Australia are from the UK for some reason.

IT recruitment in Australia doesn't require a tertiary education, fluent(ish) English is a must and the job is relatively highly paid if you're good/sociopathic enough.

There are also a lot of vacancies as the working holiday visas rotate the backpackers in and out - hence all the cold-calling, cheeky, chirpy cockneys

Really depends on the city and recruiter, I've dealt with 3 great tech recruiters in Aus, 2 of them were Irish.

Pushed their hardest to place me and get the salary range I requested and pdf resume and LinkedIn was fine.

One of the reasons, may be how the work reciprocation laws work with UK & Australia

Indeed. I let the recruiter negotiate salary on my behalf as he guaranteed at least 50k which I considered my minimum to move to London. I went through the interview process because of that.

They didn’t budge from 45. What a waste of my time and theirs.

And unfortunately they tend to migrate to Australia. I swear half the recruiters in this country are from the UK.

Remember, our country founded as a place for storing bad, bad, Britons. In the long run, it doesn't seem to do much harm.

Completely agree. I've contracted in London for 3 years. London recruiters are the sleaziest assholes I’ve ever met, it’s like Wolf of Wallstreet.

The recruiter doesn't even need references. Once you interview in person you should have direct contact with someone at the company you can give references to if need be. The good ones will make the introduction and get out of the way. Yes, I believe there are some good ones (not many).

Same with "what other companies have you been talking to?" while simultaneously asking me to not disclose the role I'm applying for with any other recruiters.

I hate the game-theory information asymmetry bullshiting game that is recruiting.

I've never had anyone call my references. The most anyone has ever wanted is a W-2 form to prove I worked there.

I think it would be kind of unusual. What's the incentive to give an unbiased reference for free? If I didn't like someone, I'd say "oh yeah, they're great", because it's not my problem and I don't want to be held accountable for the person not getting a job. If they are great, I'd say the same thing, of course. The truly calculating individual would get a request for a reference and think "wow, I could poach this person from the recruiter by giving them a poor reference and hiring them for less than their market value."

I just don't see how references are A Thing. Maybe I'm just cynical.

The higher you rise in your career, and the better companies you work for, the more you'll find your references are checked. When I applied for a part-time Christmas season job at a Photos with Santa booth last year, no one checked my references. For my current salaried job, they checked every single one (I gave four).

On the other hand...

I've been working as a full-time salaried (insert whatever term you like here for people who write code) for coming up on 13 years now.

This past month, going through the process with a potential new employer, was the first time anyone insisted on contact information for my previous jobs and made any effort to try to check on them. I have worked at both small (startup) and large (household-name) companies, at increasing levels of seniority. None of them ever did that.

I've had the opposite experience.

When working menial jobs, that required little skill, and no prior experience, references were almost always asked for, and sometimes checked.

As a software dev, moving across multiple large companies (large defense contractor, international broadcast network, international multi-industrial, well known video streaming site), from dev, dev II, senior dev, lead, manager, I've never had anyone even ask for references (I've seen one or two application systems that requested them when I was job hunting; I just didn't apply to those jobs).

What is the downside to just always giving a positive review, though? To rephrase the original question - this is recruiter/company A calling a person who works at company B to see if someone is suitable for company A. If you just always give a nice review, what is the downside for you? Unless you had genuine personal issues with the candidate, why wouldn't you just always give a good review? If the person doesn't work out, what recourse does the recruiter / company A have against you?

Ignoring that you might altruistically want to help another company -- what's the downside to being honest? If you don't want to go into detail, you could just say "We would/wouldn't hire this individual again." You gain and lose nothing either way.

I don't think the recruiter seeking a positive or negative review, so much as simply verifying claims made by the candidate or their resume. Something like...

> Tell me a little about Jim's day-to-day

> Sure... Jim is an above average junior software dev...

> Sorry you say junior or senior dev? Does Jim have team management roles?

You can give a glowing review, but depending how how Jim portrayed himself, the review can be taken by the recruiter as a net neg/pos. To directly address your question - I don't think there's much down-side for a reference to always provide a positives reviews. Just keep in mind that an experience recruiter will probably realize this too (they've probably been burned before), and have some clever ways to ferret out the key info they're after.

These questions, to me, sound like leaking confidential information about my current employer. I'd personally refer questions like that to HR.

If you were this person's boss, you'd refer these simple questions to HR?

Recruiter and former CTO here. References are a box-ticking exercise that you pay someone like Experian to do, so that you can say it was done as part of a security review.

That sounds like "employment verification": did $CANDIDATE actually work at $YOUR_COMPANY, with $JOB_TITLE, between $START_DATE and $END_DATE?

I think the "references" under discussion here are actually phoning up former colleagues/managers for more detailed questions.

They are the same references. Most companies with a decent HR department will only give the employee verification answers anyway.

Depends a ton on the role and the company. Every job I've gotten called my references. For at least one of them, the hiring manager told me my references were the tiebreaker between me and another candidate.

> What's the incentive to give an unbiased reference for free? ... it's not my problem and I don't want to be held accountable for the person not getting a job.

Maybe I'm on better, or at least different, terms with the people I've passed on as references. I let them know that I'm applying for jobs ahead, they follow up with me after the call and let me know what questions the hiring company or recruiter asked.

They don't have an "incentive" other than wanting to help make sure the job I'm applying for is a good fit. Maybe a recruiter's questions to a reference throws up red flags that don't come up in a screen or interview that might lead me to back out. Or maybe a recruiter seems focused on a specific skill or experience that I can double down on in prep. Or maybe they just want to know if I'm a good person to manage or work with.

> The truly calculating individual would get a request for a reference and think "wow, I could poach this person from the recruiter by giving them a poor reference and hiring them for less than their market value."

I limit my references to former managers and people who worked with me in different roles than the one I'm applying for. The interview and challenge processes are going to determine if I'm qualified for the job; the references are going to help the recruiter or hiring manager determine if I'm a good fit for the job.

I didn't consciously pick for your reasons because it never crossed my mind that the people I pass on as references — people with whom I stay in regular contact — would actively betray or undermine me in order to get the job that I also applied for. That might be naivety on my part, but I guess it's also harder to get poached in favor of a reference if I'm not using potential competing candidates as references.

To the OP's point, I agree that references shouldn't wind up on a tech recruiting firm's desk from the start (in part because I wouldn't curse being an unsolicited contact of a third-party tech recruiter on my worst enemy). But as a general practice, I've seen repeat value from having reliable references — aside from them also being friends with whom I like staying in touch even when I'm not job hunting.

> I just don't see how references are A Thing. Maybe I'm just cynical.

We probably just apply for different roles at different companies.

I've personally dealt with many software job reference calls for former colleagues, they do happen.

To add one more point, though this is not from personal experience, I'd guess that references get asked more detailed questions than "are they great?" which will reveal how sincere their recommendation is, and what strengths the person has.

Hard Won Recruiter Bullet Points:

Never, ever, give out a contact unless you want to burn that contact. That means no references until offer, no answering the mid-conversation "oh, I forgot, who's (CTO|your manager) there", no giving them the name of someone more suitable that might be interested. (Forward the role and recruiter to your maybe interested friend)

Send PDF CV only. Word docs will be branded, changed, and in some cases leave you sat in an interview where you don't recognise the CV and skills that got you there. Yes, this happened. We compared my CVs in interview (I always take along a paper copy).

Confirm rates or salary and conditions in interview. See above.

We once lost a super promising candidate at the references stage. Guy was a star, we were going to pay him 180 base for a remote position from somewhere fairly affordable. That was a lot to us as a small startup, more than any other IC was being paid at the time. He loved the team, the product, the mission, the comp etc.

We called his previous manager (not his current one), one of his references, to ask him about his experience with the candidate. His manager spoke very highly of his past direct report, we were quite happy with the outcome of the call.

Except his manager then proceeded to counter-offer the guy with 240, once he realized he was on the market, and the guy was like "Hey guys, you're awesome, the mission is meaningful and all that, but I got a family, I HAVE to take the extra 60k, sorry". That was one day away from him signing. We couldn't afford to counter-offer, so that's that.

Lesson: the engineering hiring climate is vicious right now, you might not want ask for references from your star candidates to avoid getting a last second poaching. Backdoor references in general are a lot better, but you still risk disclosing information that will lead to them getting poached.

I used to work as a recruiter (not anymore, terrible industry), and one of my colleagues actually sent a candidates CV to their current employer without their knowledge or consent. Things like these happen, because many external recruiters don’t take enough time for you when you’ve only just started working with you and they don’t know whether you’re “loyal” to them or just want to know your market value.

And yes, references are used as leads. We were advised to call the companies and offer our services and to headhunt the people. There are SO many black sheep in this industry (such as my old company), and very few trustworthy ones.

What are the trustworthy ones?

To be honest, I don’t know. I just assume there must be some doing a good job within all this chaos.

"Somewhere under all this shit must be a pony."

1) Your professional references may be better qualified for the role than you

This is pretty far fetched. Anyone who would be willing to go behind your back like that probably isn't someone you should list as a reference. Also nothing about being done with the last interview prevents the company from going behind your back like that anyway...

2) You’re giving the recruiter something of great value in exchange for very little

In my experience I have never seen house recruiters who add contact info for reference checks into the recruiting CRM. It seems like the kind of idea that sounds great/effective in theory but in practice is too much hassle. Maybe this only applies to 3rd party firms?

3) You may burn your references

I don't think you should ever hand out contact info for someone (email/phone #/etc) without clearing it with them first, full stop.

> This is pretty far fetched. Anyone who would be willing to go behind your back like that probably isn't someone you should list as a reference. Also nothing about being done with the last interview prevents the company from going behind your back like that anyway...

Presumably some of these shady recruiters might pitch the position to your reference without even telling them they are calling on your behalf in the first place. Based on my meager experience with recruiters, I would not put anything past them.

> Maybe this only applies to 3rd party firms?

I read the article as primarily applying to 3rd-party recruiters.

> Anyone who would be willing to go behind your back like that probably isn't someone you should list as a reference

Well, the recruiter may cold call them without mentioning that they had talked to you previously. They're searching for leads.

No need to assume nefariousness on behalf of the reference. Most shady recruiters will just tell you a friend referred them.

True. I guess the author's advice really should have been "don't give out reference info without checking with the people first", but that probably doesn't make it to the top of HN

I never, ever, ever provide my references to recruiters.

My references only ever go directly to the hiring company.

On the topic of the first one, am I the only one who finds it strange that a recruiter could 'poach' one of your references? I mean, maybe I'm unusual or it works differently over here, but from what I hear, most people's references in the UK seem to be managers or business owners for the companies they worked with, not the normal employees.

Do people usually give their 'normal' colleagues as references in the US?

If you've been working at a large company for several years, there may be very few people outside your company who know your work well enough to give a meaningful reference. Then, you can't give a manager's name, since they will almost certainly tell your own manager what is going on. That leaves only your co-workers.

Oh, you're talking about someone applying for a job and using a reference from their current company. I always thought people used references from companies they don't work at anymore.

Or your references might be a manager from your previous position plus a co-worker from a previous position plus a manager from the position before that. The co-worker from the previous position might end up being recruited.

That said, if my reference applied for the same position as me and got it, whatever, more power to them, and I probably wasn't going to get it anyway. There are enough jobs out there for both of us, and I'd rather at least know that one went to someone I like.

Plus, this colleague now is well-placed to recommend/recruit you for the next open position!

Yeah, for better or for worse that may be all a given candidate has.

In that case they should definitely avoid giving references until the last possible step. For those that do have other options though, I still think going with a manager/non colleague at a company you're not associated with anymore is the safer bet for these sorts of things, since recruiters won't have anyone to poach and your current boss won't know you're looking.

(Solution 2 would be to have as many different references as possible and to give different ones for different applications, so that no one gets too annoyed by all the calls/emails).

But why give references to recruiters at all? Surely it's the new employer who needs them...

All these conversions bashing recruiters seem a bit... unfair? I work at a company that almost exclusively does their own recruiting. There's no commission structure or misplaced incentives to get someone in, no matter how bad they could be. As someone who's been interviewing regularly, I frequently interact with some of them and they are very genuine people.

I've at one point had a recruiter whom I've had a delightful time working with. None of my interactions with her felt like a sales pitch and when it came time to interview, she provided a wealth of resources on how to perform well on phone screens and how to answer the usual algorithmic questions. On the other hand, I've had a recruiter who emailed me with their entire message in the subject line. Never a message body. He always made it seem like there was some amazing opportunity I was missing out on but the 1 or 2 times I responded out of curiosity, it was another run of the mill individual contributor jobs. I told him I felt like I was being hustled, hoping to get the hint across that I didn't want to work with him. Didn't work. So I told him I'm not interested in any job that doesn't provide a minimum of some outrageous salary and a very senior title. Haven't heard from him since.

I guess I can agree with the sentiment that there are enough bad apples in the industry to spoil it as a whole. Also, avoid Talener in Boston. Biggest bunch of hustlers I've ever seen.

>All these conversions bashing recruiters seem a bit... unfair

It probably is fair at least to the recruiters they've interacted with. But good recruiters do exist. I used to date someone who was a recruiter, and her complaints about her work showed it was an extremely cut throat business. Not being the cut throat type of person herself, she had to deal with enormous amounts of stress of people screwing her over and pressuring her to do things she didn't agree with. She found great joy in helping people find work they would like, and absolutely loved talking to her recruits and business partners. She eventually couldn't take in anymore and left the industry, but she still interacts with a lot of people she placed even three years later just to keep in touch.

So the first thing I looked for in this post was whether this was based on experience in the UK because my experience (when I lived there) was absolutely godawful. Like soul-destroying awful. And honestly I don't think the rest of the EU (+Switzerland) was much better. I see no mention of it however.

Tactics I saw included fake interviews (cancelled at the last minute; in some cases with places I knew people so I definitively found out they were fake), being forwarded to positions without consent, modifying my resume, pocketing pay raises from the employer (this was a contracting ie hourly/daily rate type deal), being told they were putting me forward for something when they didn't. Honestly the list goes on.

So it's been more than a decade since I lived in London and I STILL get emails from some of these agencies (luckily to a now largely abandoned email address).

Nowadays, at least in tech, I wonder if you should ever talk to a recruiter at all. The big guys do direct recruitment. Smaller startups tend to be via existing relationships and word-of-mouth (at least that's my impression). And in my experience company recruiters are orders of magnitude better than independent recruiters.

On the subject of references, it's been awhile since I've had to deal with this, but the principle of being prudent with revealing your references resonates. In the past I've only done this as part of the company's due diligence after accepting an offer. No one is going to seriously check your references when you're still a resume in a pile. I can totally see recruiters cold calling references.

I once had a recruiter cold-call my employer's main line, ask for me by name and falsely claim to the receptionist that they had already been in contact with me about a position. The whole office heard about it within 30 minutes.

Not a good way to make friends.

I have another point to add to article: reference fatigue. If someone volunteers to be a reference you don't want them to have to talk to more than a few companies. If you are giving them out at the beginning that is potentially a lot of requests.

I've personally never been asked until after on-site but if i had I would do what this article says: offer to do so after on-site and walk away if that's not ok.

I wish I knew this eons ago. I’m sure there are some good ones...somewhere. But, FUCK RECRUITERS.

I like them. I'm a naturally lazy person, and filling out redundant information on Taleo forms for each job I apply to, only to be ghosted or called 6 weeks later is worse than dealing with recruiters who actively gain from getting me hired. Most of the ones I've worked with were friendly and followed up with me immediately about my standing. The only proviso is that their interests aren't aligned with mine regarding salary and start date. So you have to be assertive. I don't even see the problem with giving them a couple leads.

Former recruiter here (not a fan of the industry either), just interested: what happened?

Lots of lying and that lying leading me to not getting paid or putting me in unfortunate situations.

Meeting times for potential employers, length of engagement for contracts, date of pay, and so on.

Being a young, hopeful professional leads to being taken advantage of because at our core, we all believe that people act in good faith. The more I worked with them (and the older I got), I've learned that once money is in play all bets are off.

One gentle recruiter has agreed to a job for me. Then tried to blame me for his inability to hire me.

Sounds about right.

A bit of nuance: The ones in Germany are seriously good, in my experience.

I used to be one in Germany, and trust me: there’s stuff going on you don’t want to know. Calls being recorded without your knowledge, zero respect for data privacy, recruiters sending out your CV without your knowledge (if they’re incompetent even to your own employer) - I’ve seen it all.

Spill the (coffee) beans dude.

Very much interested into what you might have seen.

Is there really any reason not to just walk around an external recruiter?

I had an external recruiter contact me for a position at big-tech-giant, but if was really going to apply for it, why wouldn't I just apply at their careers page? Or email a former co-worker who works at big-tech-giant and ask to be hooked up with a recruiter?

I'm curious, what are the upsides to working with an external recruiter?

Often people one hear about a job because it’s advertised by a recruiter and they don’t tell you the company’s name until you agree not to apply there yourself.

A recruiter can control the process better than an applicant can, and they prepare you for every interview, and (try to) influence the process by selling in your advantages after the interview.

They’re also often in contact with the hiring manager instead of the HR person.

Those might be reasons to work with them, but there’s also a good amount of reasons why it’s not a great idea

> why wouldn't I just apply at their careers page?

My experience has been that this is largely a black hole.

> Or email a former co-worker who works at big-tech-giant and ask to be hooked up with a recruiter?

Great plan, if you have former co-workers at companies you want to work for.

Here's a company that did it to me: Sapphire Technologies U.S., a Randstad Company

Why would you ever give references to a recruiter? They are not employers who have offered you a position you have decided to take.

Job offer is at hand and they are required to reference check based on the agreement they made with the company. That is part of the leg-work for the fee.

What do you do when the recruiter contacts your current employer before you even provide references?

This happened to me when it was time to move on from my first real job. A recruiter, who I spoke to briefly and had no interest in moving forward with, contacted my current manager and said he'd help fill my role after I left. My manager had no idea I was looking to leave at that point. After confirming with me that I was indeed planning to leave, the manager wished me well, then ensured neither the recruiter nor their company would ever work with one of the largest engineering companies in Europe. That felt righteous and worked out for the best, but could really have left me in the lurch.

File a complaint with whatever firm they work for. Reassure your employer you're just keeping an ear to the ground.

Lawyer up if you can afford it?

Anyone can certainly sue anyone at anytime (at least in the US), but I don't think there's any basis for a civil claim here. Not sure you'd find a lawyer to take your case.

This is certainly scummy but how is it illegal?

If that call led to you being fired you would have a good case to sue for damages from lost income.

I'm pretty sure it's illegal in the EU unless you provide explicit consent.

You don't have to break a law to be ruled against in civil court (in the US), but I agree with you; I don't see a case here (even checked with a lawyer who happens to be visiting.)

> You don't have to break a law to be ruled against in civil court (in the US)

Yes, you do; civil courts enforce civil law, which is actually law.

If you ask and confirm that they won't contact your current employer, then might it not fall under contract law?

... Yes that makes sense. No idea why I was thinking law == criminal law.

Maybe - it’s stretching - tortuous interference?

In my experience, recruiters who are too honest generally end up getting you a bad deal or not fighting hard enough for you.

On the other end of the spectrum, the really slimy ones are so dishonest that the deal doesn't happen at all.

The best ones have enough honesty that you can at least bet on them giving you an accurate general picture and they are just slimy enough to do and say what needs to be said to get you the job.

It might also be prudent to register a few numbers in Twilio and have them forward to your references. Then you know if they were called and by whom, all while keeping your references' real numbers private.

Personally, I don't think this is that big a deal. If you're a good engineer, there really is no shortage of opportunities. If you're not a good engineer, then that is the root problem that should be fixed. For me, recruiters are just people who helps me do the logistics work so that I never had to apply for a job.

"To this day, I don’t know what the recruiter said to my former manager, but I do know that my manager called me up pissed off about the phone call he’d received, and told me to not use him as a reference in the future."

I think that's a bad manager. As a manager, especially in tech, you should definitely expect your co-workers to take the best opportunity available. As a professional, the manager him/herself should also take the best opportunity available. It's people's careers, be professional about it.

As a good engineer, surely you recognize that topics such as peoples careers are poorly defined by binary classification...

Well of course, but I mean that as if you're not confident enough to recommend other engineers because of competition, then the root cause is probably your own standard of expertise that you have set that you have not met and should meet.

Why do people use recruiters? %99 percent of the time you can figure out who the company is they are representing. Often recruiter sites will even list the companies they represent. EVERY startup I have worked for that does hiring, hates paying the %20+ markup for a hire. We would much rather give that cash to the new employee and use it to be more competitive. If there are two candidates with equal skill sets, one is $130k (recruiter (20k) + their salary (110k) ) and the other is $110 (just their salary) -- often management will lean towards the guy for 110k in a strapped for cash startup. They view you as a $130k a year employee NOT a 110k a year employee.

Competent recruiters with good reputations and connections are like gold - especially in markets that aren't "Software Developer in Coastal USA". They know the state of the market, the main players, who is looking, who is good to work for, what the pay is going to be and whether applying is worth your time. They understand the value of establishing relationships with good people and will work to ensure a good fit for all involved, because the only thing better than a $20k bonus for getting someone into a job is getting a $30k bonus a couple years later by doing barely any work because both sides of the deal came to you.

This is almost exactly like the difference between good, high value sales, and telemarketing. One is a relationships game, one is a commodified numbers game. Don't be a commodity, and you won't be treated like one.

OK, in terms of this - anyone from the UK had any actual experience of this caliber?

> If there are two candidates with equal skill sets

I thought we had a talent shortage. If there is a talent shortage, this should be such a rare occurrence as to be irrelevant.

As a manager I've worked with many recruiters.

One called me offering a candidate. 5min later he made calls to my team to offer them a new job.

Isn’t this common knowledge? It takes time to properly prepare them and you don’t want to do that casually.

And if it’s a headhunter...

- Be explicit that they need your permission to send their resume somewhere else.

- Don’t tell them where else you’re interviewing.

Wonderful advice from the community here. I always defer providing references as long as possible.

There have been a number of occasions when I thought the outside recruiter wanted to make the reference calls because they wanted to make sure a weak reference wouldn't interfere with them making the sale. The hiring HR is happy for the recruiter to do the legwork. The recruiter makes sure their candidate is accepted.

Do people still check references? My last two gigs they didn't even bother.

I feel like it's industry-specific. My girlfriend had all her references called for a position at an engineering (real) consulting firm

It’s still worth doing even if there’s a just a small chance of turning something up. The only time I haven’t seen it be useful is employee referrals.

Honest question: what do you hope to find?

As a source of information, references were hand selected by the person with an interest in getting selected, they will like be prepped on what to say, they have zero investment in your company's success, etc.

80% of the time you get nothing.

10% you can get confirmation that you correctly spotted the candidate’s development areas. (Everyone has them, so it’s not a gotcha. But if you think the candidate needs to work on their architecture skills, their last boss confirms it but says they’re a great hire, then you can a good conversation later. “I’d love you to do X, how do we make you a great architect along the way?)

10% if the time you catch the candidate in a lie or find yourself asking “Is the best they could find someone to talk about their work?”

When I reference checked nannies, the last bucket grew to 50%. And I had one nanny give another as a reference.

It's amazing what you get if you just stay on the phone with the reference. People want to talk. They want to say something meaningful. Once the cliches are dispensed with they're forced to say something real and at that point you get to find out the real type of person you're looking at.

Just being able to provide multiple people with meaningful positions (former manager at your company, etc.) who are willing to advocate for you is a signal. There are ways to fake that signal of course, but it's still something of a filter.

If a reference is so weak that they will go after the same job from a reference check or decide not to give you references in the future, you should know better and find someone else.

Each reference should enthusiastically endorse you and want you to succeed. That often means providing several responses, because you are going to go get competitive offers right?

My understanding was that references are explicitly always available upon request and there's nothing more to it. If the prospective employer wants them, I'll give them to them if I'm interested enough. I don't put anything about my references on my resume and I believe this is the common wisdom.

I got asked for SIX (6) professional references at my last interview. Is that normal? Seems ridiculously excessive.

Excessive in my experience, but not out of bounds for a sufficiently senior role.

I give a lot of references and as far as I can tell, the norm is for offers to be contingent on references; that is: references don't gate offers.

I think it's reasonable, and would personally recommend, that you demand at least a verbal agreement that an offer is forthcoming before offering a reference.

I only get references from candidates at the final onsite stage. The candidate can determine what they are comfortable with at all times. There are good external recruiters out there. The last point is the most important one: know your worth. Don’t work with people you don’t fee you can trust.

I had one background checking service (run by a credit reference agency) forge a document authorising them to get details of my finances and send it to my referees once. The whole process is infested with the least ethical people imaginable.

How do people deal with present employers becoming aware that you may be looking for another position? Do people hide it (hold references back until a job offer, or give previous employment references) or allow their employer to know?

Don’t ever let your employer know. If they know you’re not loyal, but don’t find a better job or decide to stay for some other reason, you’re always going to be the one who gets the least trust, the worst projects (you might be gone soon anyway, right?) or even be the one who gets fired if someone has to go.

Another reason why you shouldn’t give references that early.

It's funny how it differs by industry, too. In software land, you keep quiet. In the service sector, people seem to be pretty open about it. In academia, it's definitely openly discussed. I'm kind of curious what it's like in law, civil service, etc.

I thought this was common knowledge? (it certainly is in British IT industry)

Traditionally in the US recruiters know not to call or abuse references, it has been an unwritten rule. Things have gotten a bit sleazier in the last decade or so, you can't trust them as much to stay within what used to be the culturally accepted boundaries. It might be due in part to the considerable increase in recruiters working remotely, they're not being as well policed or screened by their employers.

It's a sales driven business, not information driven. Therefore, it wasn't yet disrupted by all the "AI" automatic matching algorithms.

Can't wait for that job market 1 pixel attack. Here comes 500k!

I don’t understand. Isn’t any business “sales driven”?

I think what he means by sales driven is high information asymmetry: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_asymmetry

It’s a fair call, if you ask me.

It’s too bad that “sales driven” is code for “information hiding.” But it’s true.

Anecdotally, I’ve been able to solve the information assymetry problem by drinking recruiters under the table. This is pretty much a prerequisite for me working with you.

Your mileage may vary.

Recruiters aren't taking your references to figure out whether you're good at your job. I mean they are, but that isn't the main purpose behind taking them. They're taking your references to build a network to acquire business from your employer.

I'd like to also add another tip for fellow Vancouverites:

When a agency recruiters tells you he/she/zir doesn't consider salary as an important metric for gauging quality, hang up immediately, especially when they use a blocked number.

I hate commuting 1.5 hours for a 10 minute interview because the recruiter considers engineers as cannon fodder.

I don't work with recruiters. 95% of them waste my time and don't bring any value. I don't play those odds.

I was asked once to provide references. I asked the recruiter how this could make sense as I will give her three friends who will swear that I am extraordinary.

She said she need three references and that's all.

It was at the beginning of my career, I am so glad that such nonsense is over now.

Or only give your references directly to the potential employer at the end of the interviews.

May as well tell the recruiter this is your intent before hand. There are a great many recruiters in the world and it's worth sorting the good from not so good.

The recruiter can look up all your connections on LinkedIn or wherever else, so it's not like the name of your old manager or director is some super valuable secret like the author is treating it to be.

Seems a bold assumption given that I (and many people I know) don't maintain accounts on linkedin or similar.

In my industry, I would be highly suspect of someone without a LinkedIn presence. It's table stakes.

Yeah because some are just looking for names to use as prospects.

I'd say don't give references at all. They ask that because they don't trust the candidate. It's a bad sign IMHO.

This was great to read after giving my references to a recruiter.

Don't provide your references to a recruiter, period. After the last interview give your reference to a client/employer directly if they require it.

A crooter once called my work's front desk asking to speak to me, so he could attempt to entice me into a different position on my work phone.

Crooters give less of a fuck about your personal data than Zuckerberg. Don't let them have more than they absolutely need. Waiting for crooter firms to be hit with the GDPR banhammer.

I mean, this is a no brainer. In some fields it is not easy to get a job. And in some cultures/some recruiters contact your references to "get a clear picture". What will your former boss[es] say, if the 10th person contacts them?

"I am more than happy to provide references that can back up my application but please understand that this is THE LAST STEP in the application process". Always worked for me.

Hint: The application process is often a good hint of things to come. Also, never go to an interview without a phone interview first to make sure you are on the same page.

That preliminary phone interview will also help you to establish your credibility and expertise before they get a look at you. In case you aren't a young white or Asian man.

I don't know about Asian males. But, call me crazy, salary is something that I would bring up. I does not make sense to interview for a position that pays far below your current salary. There is really no need to interview if you are not on the same page. This does not only save my time, it also saves yours.

By the way, the guy the was the most pushy ever about my references was a guy I insisted on doing a phone interview first. After the interview and the offer he have, I had to kindly decline to proceed on the matter.

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