I think most would agree on the importance of good references when conducting a job search. As a recruiter- when interviewing a quality candidate I often request references in addition to resume/CV from the start. Why you might ask? As a recruiter my job is to have my candidate’s resume stand out from the other twenty on the hiring manager’s desk, and what better way to accomplish that then by having sterling references in addition to a resume presented. It is a concept that works in theory, but not always in reality. What if the references are not so sterling? Do you send them still? The short answer- of course.

When I first began working a desk my sole focus was on the candidate side within the heatlhcare sector. It was extremely important (especially with graduating residents) to request references letters at the start of the process. Understandably some candidates were reluctant to such a request, but once the benefit was explained I had little problem getting references (or at least names/numbers). Most individuals have a set bullpen of colleagues and friends that they use in providing references. This is a group of folks that the individual feels will speak best on their behalf. But that is not always the case. I have had many experiences in when conducting the reference checks on behalf of my candidate the complete opposite happened. Weather due to jealousy, competitiveness, or flat out dislike- I have had references go out of their way to at times paint a very negative picture of my candidate. It happens and a tip to jobseekers is to be very careful of just who you feel will be a great reference for you.

How to Ask for a Reference from an Employer
How to Ask for a Job Reference

I often request three references and have encountered many occasions where two of the three are amazing and the third is flat out awful. So what do you do then?I am a recruiter and NOT the hiring manager/client so I feel it is my responsibility to still send this information in as part of the present. The simple reasoning is that a variety of perspectives usually allows one to get a true sense of what is before them. As a recruiter this is a time for me to roll up my sleeves and go to work for my candidate. If I strongly believe that this person is a strong fit then in addition to all the information I provided with the present, I need to make a case.  The goal is to position my candidate in the best light to at the very least be given equal consideration. To be honest this is a challenge that I love to undertake when at my desk, but we will discuss my tips for that on that another day.

However I am most curious what others recruiters do when faced with this same situation. Do you still send it in? Do you just omit all of them till client directly requests them? What tips might you have to soften the blow when a references goes bad?