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.
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.)
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.
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.
Recruiters are like pimps, but without the morals
And pimps usually dress better.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
I don't believe in Colorado it is illegal to say anything more, it's just not worth it to risk possible litigation.
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.
If I’m in a position where I can’t give a good reference, I don’t give a reference at all.
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.
(btw, the comment you replied to never mentioned the gender of the person)
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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?
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
All they are doing it looking for leads.
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
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
Pushed their hardest to place me and get the salary range I requested and pdf resume and LinkedIn was fine.
They didn’t budge from 45. What a waste of my time and theirs.
I hate the game-theory information asymmetry bullshiting game that is recruiting.
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.
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.
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).
> 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.
I think the "references" under discussion here are actually phoning up former colleagues/managers for more detailed questions.
> 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Well, the recruiter may cold call them without mentioning that they had talked to you previously. They're searching for leads.
My references only ever go directly to the hiring company.
Do people usually give their 'normal' colleagues as references in the US?
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.
(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).
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.
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.
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.
Not a good way to make friends.
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.
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.
Very much interested into what you might have seen.
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?
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
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.
Yes, you do; civil courts enforce civil law, which is actually law.
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.
"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.
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.
I thought we had a talent shortage. If there is a talent shortage, this should be such a rare occurrence as to be irrelevant.
One called me offering a candidate. 5min later he made calls to my team to offer them a new job.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Another reason why you shouldn’t give references that early.
It’s a fair call, if you ask me.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.