All jobseekers have to manage the “reference requirement” during their jobsearch. There’s no way around it! Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) often require the candidate to enter contact information for his or her references when applying for a job.

New HR processes for references:

Fairly recently, Human Resource professionals have been contacting references before talking to job candidates. Yes, that’s right. They don’t want jobseekers prepping their references beforehand. That’s understandable!

Getting the right person in a position is a high-stake proposition. It’s critical! Making a bad hire has dire consequences for everyone involved.

The high cost of a bad hire.

Making a bad hire is incredibly costly for the company:

  • Productivity has been lost as well as project momentum.
  • Having the wrong person in a position affects employee morale and that person likely takes a toll on supervisors and others as additional support and training are needed.
  • With any luck at all, the person may be on a 30, 60, or 90-day trial period. Or they may be a “Temp-to-hire” or contract employee. In these cases, removing the individual can be a bit easier.
  • If they have been hired as a permanent employee, it gets harder. The employee may have to go on an employee improvement plan. Lots of documentation takes place between the manager, HR, and the employee.
  • Once the employee is removed, then the hiring process has to over start again.
  • A lot of time, money and resources have been wasted.
  • In certain cases, a bad hire could mean termination for an internal recruiter or Human Resource professional.

A job that is a bad fit for the employee is costly too:

  • The new employee is likely worn down, crushed, and often disillusioned. This never feels good to an employee and it can damage his or her ability to move forward from a career perspective. Then comes a new jobsearch…yet again!
  • The former employee has to create a way to explain the former employment situation and what happened.

According to HRMorning in this article … A bad hire, even in the lowest paying jobs, with salaries of $18K to $20K can cost the company $25K. A bad hire in a job paying between $110,000 and $130,000 can cost employers between $152K to $220K.

OUCH! That makes if perfectly clear to me why companies want to avoid a bad hire. This makes it reasonable to me why they want to get candid information from references.

This article by Quickbooks writer Megan Sullivan indicates the first three ways to avoid a bad hire is:

  1. Don’t Rush It.
  2. Check References (and ask the right questions!)
  3. Bring the candidate on for a short-term assignment.

There it is…Hiring professionals need credible information from references. AND short-term assignments are a safeguard against a bad hire. Jobseekers who avoid short-term assignments may be missing long-term opportunities.

ATS processes: Refined and effective

Applicant Tracking Systems have come a long way. Although most jobseekers can quickly produce an extensive list of annoying challenges, these systems have matured significantly. They do a better job to help employers find the right candidate and they do a better job to assist jobseekers to find the right employment situation.

As the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) have matured, they now have the capability to report regulatory compliance. This include Affirmative Action and Compliance for the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP).

With that in mind, if there are jobseekers who are still trying to get around these systems, it might not be a good idea. I’m not suggesting that trying to find hiring managers and move your resume forward is wrong, but I am suggesting that the Human Resource professionals have regulatory compliance requirements and skirting their reporting processes may not put a jobseeker on their “good side.” Besides, when and if you are negotiating a contract for employment, it might be nice to have the HR person as an advocate. Side-stepping the ATS may not be the way to start your relationship with Human Resources …I’m just sayin’.

The biggest Reference Mega-blunder of all time:

Do you want to know what it was? Okay, check this out.
A company decided to move forward with a candidate and asked for contact information for her references, which she promptly submitted.

Each of her contacts received an email asking for a reference on behalf of the candidate. The references were very responsive. All three submitted their letters and responded to the survey questions within 30-40 minutes of each other. From the HR perspective, all three references checks were completed within a few hours. NICE!

Nice? …with one exception. All three recommendations came from the same IP address and the ATS caught it and put a big red flag on the account. Huh?

The IP address (Internet Protocol) is the unique identifier given to each computer that is communicating over the Internet. The ATS identified that the references were generated from the same computer and flagged the account.

Apparently, the jobseeker personally registered three Gmail accounts, one for each [bogus?] reference, and had the emails forwarded to herself. When the email, requesting a reference was received, the jobseeker crafted three recommendations and submitted them from her personal computer.

Uh huh, I bet you could guess…the person did not get the job.

Nine Tips for Reference Selection:

  1. Ideally references should consist of both men and women.
  2. If possible, references should sample a variety of work situations: managers, colleagues, direct reports, etc.
  3. People who regularly check their email and who will quickly respond to a request for a reference are best.
  4. Contact information should include:
    • The person’s name and salutation (Mr. Ms. Dr.)
    • His or her current company and title.
    • The relationship between the reference person and the jobseeker.
      E.g. My former manager at XYZ.

  5. Mobile phone numbers are preferred. Since some companies prohibit or limit employees’ ability to give references. A mobile number lets the HR professional know that the reference will likely be able to talk openly about the candidate.
  6. If a job search is confidential, then indicate “Application Confidential” on the reference information, so your current company is not contacted. (In 10 years, I have never had a call go through when these words were used. HR professionals do not want to damage a potential client’s reputation at their current company.)
  7. You may expect that inquiries may be made to companies and individuals that are not included on your reference list.
  8. Contact your references, send a PDF of your current resume. If s/he knows something specific about you that other references cannot speak to, then let them know:
    “When I worked for you, I had the opportunity to train several new team members. This is a skill that my other references would not know about. If it is comfortable for you to discuss this with a future employer, that would help my candidacy.”
  9. Follow-up with your references after they have participated in the validation process. Create good will. A hand-written note can make a memorable impression.

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Master these jobseeker skills to differentiate yourself, and stay ahead of the curve.

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One thought on “The powerful ATS and the worst mistake ever made by a jobseeker

  1. So “pain” letters can backfire? Interesting. This is good reality check for jobseekers.

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