Recruiters strive to make the best use of their time. They don't waste time checking applicants' references until there's a transition from mere job seeker to viable candidate. Human resources metrics use time-to-fill statistics and costs to measure the effectiveness of recruitment activities. Contacting references too early in the game simply adds unnecessary time to fill the position, which is why employers wait until the last stage of the selection process to ask for candidates' references.
Online Application Process
Many online application processes request that you submit at least three references with your initial application. You typically have a limited time within which to complete the online application before the system times out or you have to save your submission and return to it later. Nevertheless, you should be able to list references on the online application. An application that's missing pertinent, required information -- or, at least requested information -- might not make it through the first preliminary screening. Worse, the prospective employer might think you don't have any one who will stand up for you and say you're a good worker.
After your telephone interview with the recruiter or during your first face-to-face interview with a hiring manager, don't feel like you have to wait until the company asks for your professional references. Demonstrate your interest in the job. Offering a list of references is a sign that you're not afraid to show initiative and that you're enthusiastic about making the next round of cuts for top candidates. On the other hand, if you're not yet confident that you know enough about the job and the company to reveal the identities of your professional reference list, wait until you have one more interview to decide whether to offer the list.
Many selection processes begin with preliminary screening, a telephone interview and at least one face-to-face interview. When an employer asks for a list of references at the end of your second interview, take it as a good sign that you're close to being a final candidate for the job or that you're even one of two possible finalists. By the second interview, you should know enough about the company to decide whether you're interested in the job, and the interviewer knows enough about you to invest additional time and money in recruiting you.
The moral to the job-search saga is: "Always be prepared." You never know when you'll be asked for a list of references, but whenever the recruiter or hiring manager asks, it's a good sign. Whether it's the second interview or if you have one more interview, you can safely assume that you've made a favorable impression on the hiring manager if she asks for a list of people who can vouch for your skills and qualifications.
Although you have a list of references with you during your first interview, use discretion when you're providing the names of your former supervisors, managers and colleagues. Provide a list of references only when you instinctively know that you're moving forward in the selection process. Refrain from disclosing information about your references when you respond to a blind ad for a company that you're not quite you want to work for.
Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.