Just What Does a Reference Check After the Interview Mean, Anyway?

September 13, 2016
Many people ask what it means if an employer does a reference check after interviewing a job seeker, and the simple answer is that it means they are interested in you.
However, it does not necessarily mean anything more than that, so don't start to get your hopes up too soon.
In some cases, competition within your particular industry or chosen profession may be fierce, and you may go from one job interview to another without any success at all.
To learn that an employer is checking your references is a good sign, and if your references are good, it could very well result in you receiving an offer of employment.
But, a deeper look will show you why you should not get too excited.

4 things you should think about

  1. There may be several strong candidates. If the employer has received a large number of applications for a particular position, then the list of candidates invited to interview can be quite long. When this is the case, it is not uncommon for an employer to be faced with several strong candidates, and they may decide to do a reference check after the interview to simply narrow the field before deciding who to bring back in for a second interview round.
  2. Your references might not be good enough. You may be under the impression that the people who are going to provide a reference for you are going to paint you in the best possible light. However, this may not be the case. Many former employers will say good things about you, but they may also balance this by making note, even if it is only in passing, of your weaknesses.
  3. Your references might leave some questions unanswered. A prospective employer may be impressed by your performance during an interview but still have some doubts about your suitability for the position. Checking references may be one way for the prospective employer to get the answers to those questions. However, if your references do not provide the answers that the employer needs, it's likely they will look at other candidates.
  4. Your references might not be the deciding factor. For many employers, using a reference checking service is simply part of the employment process and, even if you receive glowing ones, the prospective employer may pay little or no attention to them. They could base their hiring decision on any number of other factors, and your references are simply there as part of the overall hiring process.

Don't crack the champagne just yet

Yes, it's easy to assume that if you have made it through the initial job interview, and your prospective employer is checking your references, that you probably are going to get the job. Unfortunately, many people think this way and, as a result, a lot of people end up disappointed.
The fact that a prospective employer does a reference check after your interview is certainly a good sign -- but don't rush out and buy the champagne just yet.
Editor's note: Talent Insider is fueled by Checkster, and Checkster's Reference Checkup is an automated, software-based tool that takes only two minutes to establish a review online. Within two days, you can view an in-depth report about an employment candidate. Reference checking software — with our services — makes this formerly onerous task easy and insightful.