Scenario #1: Telling the Recruiter, “I need to check with them first.” This tells me that you have not prepared for your career transition and have been caught off-guard, and you might be caught off-guard in the job, too.
Scenario #2: “I don’t have their current phone number.” Then you probably don’t know them very well and they won’t give me a good idea of your overall work ethic.
Scenario #3: “I don’t have that information with me right now.” With today’s technology and smart phones, this is not an effective tactic, unless the Recruiter is calling in the middle of the night or you are in a cave.
Scenario #4: Trying to talk the Recruiter into diverging from the established hiring process. “Boy, most reference checks are done right before the offer, not prior to the onsite interview. I really expected this to be later in the game. Are you sure it has to be done now?” Bad move. Not only have you cast yourself in a bad light over references, you have questioned an established company practice. Right or wrong, are you sure you want to do that?
Scenario #5: “I don’t want to burn my references out.” Thanks – that makes HR feel as though they have branded the company well – (sarcasm). Either the company isn’t attractive enough or the candidate is not prepared for his/her job search. Either way, most Recruiters will cut bait at that point.
Scenario #6 “I need to know that the company is serious about me before I give out any references.” Yikes. HR Pros and Corporate Recruiters HATE it when candidates ask for a thinly-veiled quid pro quo – it can be construed as an offer of employment and those experienced in the ways of HR law will run screaming from that statement and any candidate willing to make it. Plus, this translates into mistrust over the Recruiter’s ability to keep things confidential and that will strike him/her as criticism.
Like it or not, most recruiters are a valued consultant for hiring managers at the company level – not just a gatekeeper. Treat them with reverie and respect. Even though your intent is not to minimize their role in the process, the scenarios above show how they perceive the delay as a warning sign.
If you are not prepared for a reference check – get ready. The best job seekers have references already in their arsenal – contacted, with current contact information or documented on LinkedIn or prepared as reference letters. If HR wants to talk to them – the best candidate for the job already knows what they are going to say and that it is positive. If you don’t, the one who gets the job will.