The latest in ridiculous recruiting

by Evil HR Lady on January 27, 2014

I talk a lot about the problems in recruiting. Like all the things recruiters require, the fruitlessness of online applications, and how recruiters somehow think it’s okay not to get back to someone who has come in to the office to office.

Today I  heard of a new one: 12 references. yes, that’s right, this woman has been asked to provide 12 references.

I started working when I was 16, and have either been working, in school, on a mission, or working while in school–except for a 5 month period in which I was trying to find a job and watching Fraiser, Friends and E.R while doing counted cross stitch. (This was a low point in my life.)  I’m not sure I could come up with 12 references.

Sure, could I come up with 12 people who would be willing to speak about me? Yes, of course. But 12 people who actually supervised my work and could comment on my actual performance? Doubtful. I keep in contact with 4 former bosses, and one former editor, and a whole bunch of former coworkers,  but do you really want to talk with the person who sat in the cube next to me?

No, you want to speak with someone who evaluated my performance.

So, I can give you 5.

Not 12.

This is ridiculous request.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Brad January 27, 2014 at 2:53 pm

I am a member of the long term unemployed. Late 50′s early 60′s group. I worked steady for over thirty years in my industry, 4 or 5 employers during that time. After a merger and downsizing I have had a problem finding a permanent position. I recently interveiwed with a firm that asked for 30 references. The headhunter I am working with couldn’t believe it. I gave them 3 during the phone interview. When I had a face to face interview they asked for more. I gave them an additional 3. They stated I should recieve an offer letter this week, and still asked for more references.

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Evil HR Lady January 27, 2014 at 4:32 pm

30? Okay you win. Or lose.

Seriously, recruiters, if you need 30 references before making up your mind you should not be in this business. Period.

Really.

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J M January 27, 2014 at 5:07 pm

I have heard of someone who needed to have people from every place he’s lived or worked in the past 10 years interviewed about his character, but this was for a position with the government where national security would be at stake. For a job, that many references seems a little overkill.

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Anonymous January 27, 2014 at 5:10 pm

We used to ask for references and only ever call those particular references…. but it is easy for someone to just list people who they know will give them a good ‘sugar-coated’ reference. Now, I have changed how we do things. We will still accept those references, and still call them, but I point blank, openly tell people in interviews that we call all past employers listed period. And that is all the real reference checking that I need to do.

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Nick Corcodilos January 27, 2014 at 5:19 pm

I think the reason an employer asks for 12 references is the same reason the employer solicits thousands of people to submit applications: The employer doesn’t know what it is doing and is terrified of making a mistake, so it makes the fatal mistake of using tons of “data” in its decision process. This is the sign of an employer on the ropes; I’d never continue the interviews or consider working there. Imagine accepting the job, and having to deliver 12 reports to your boss to justify how you’re going to do our job.

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College Career Counselor January 28, 2014 at 2:05 pm

I suspect it’s also not 12 supervisory references. I’ve been asked for multiple references (although not 12–and certainly not 30!), and it was always phrased as:
1) former supervisor
2) former direct report
3) peer colleague (w/in institution)
4) peer colleague (outside institution)
5) current boss (yes, this is problematic if current job doesn’t know you’re looking

They wanted to get a sense of you as a boss as well as an employee (sort of the 360 review of references, I guess).

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Bunny January 27, 2014 at 6:17 pm

What a joke. I’d never work for an employer with these types of ridiculous requests. Recruiters had better get their act together. The labor market is quickly changing with all of the baby-boomer retirements. Soon, it will be a job-seeker’s market, and interviewees won’t put up with this malarkey.

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StellsBells January 27, 2014 at 6:21 pm

I’m curious as to whether this is a staffing agency of some sort – sounds like someone is trying to generate business leads…not actual references. I mean what recruiter has time to call 12 references?!? Seriously!

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Evil HR Lady January 27, 2014 at 9:04 pm

Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner. It is for a staffing agency.

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Charles January 29, 2014 at 6:51 pm

This is exactly what I thought as well – someone is just looking for contacts.

I’ve run into this with many staffing agencies asking for a list of the people I have worked with on previous assignments though other agencies. They have not outright said “we need 12 (or even 30!) references.” But, they have asked for a list so they can “check things out.”

Every time this has happened, I’ve turned down the request; instead offering just a couple (usually three previous supervisors). And, unsurprisingly, I don’t get offered an interview at the client. Sort of makes me believe that there wasn’t really a position open anyway. They were just phone-screening or interviewing me to get me into their database of potential employees to brag to clients about their numerous staff!

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LTMG January 27, 2014 at 6:30 pm

Is it possible in a job market with many candidates that recruiters might require many references as just another hurdle to determine which of the candidates is truly interested? That would be a cheap but unprofessional way of culling the many candidates.

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The gold digger January 28, 2014 at 12:28 am

Not unlike the online job application I am looking at right now, which warns me, “The online application could take you 45 minutes to an hour to complete based on the length of your career….You will need your job history detail including exact dates in each job/company, supervisors’ names and their contact information.”

Why are you making me go through all that crap before you even know if you want to interview me? Do some basic screening first.

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Some Guy January 27, 2014 at 8:45 pm

HahahaHahahaha!

Since there is so much incompetence in HR, when, if at all, will HR people start losing their jobs? Are they ever accountable for job performance??!

I actually cherish the thought of unemployed HR people being victims of HR awfulness and a bad job market.

Is that evil? I hope so!

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Daniel January 27, 2014 at 9:05 pm

Good Lord! 12 or 30? I can’t stand doing checks for 3 much less 12. Knowing that people are going to (hopefully) put people who will give them positive references (although, I’ve had a few pretty funny ones that were less than positive), wouldn’t it be more productive to have the applicant fill out a personality assessment or two instead? We’re trying to figure out someone’s character, so isn’t that also what behavioral interviewing is for? Sheesh.

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Katrina January 28, 2014 at 4:07 am

I can’t speak for other companies, but my former company (where I worked for 25 years) will only verify that someone has worked there, their last title, and dates employed. So any company, recruiter, etc. that calls looking for more will be sorely disappointed. Plus, most of my former supervisors have left the company. Only one remains at the company (and they frown on formal references), and I’m in contact with two, so I would be in pitiful shape trying to supply more than a few. This just lends itself to why I find the entire hiring process as being so sadly missing the mark.

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Kimberley January 28, 2014 at 8:11 pm

That’s ridiculous! Seriously. Who has the time to contact 12 references?

I’m trying to be fair to the staffing company (after all, I worked at one for 10 years), and i know first hand how hard it is to reach references. Perhaps they figure that the more you provide the easier it will be to reach 3. However, the cynical side of me says that they are using your references to mine for new business. This is very commonplace in the staffing industry. If you have 3 recent references from direct supervisors, that is what i would provide. No more, no less. If they have issues, with it, then that’s your answer: walk away.

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Cathy Shanes January 29, 2014 at 11:51 am

By making candidates submit that amount of references we literally force them to prepare fake references, because rarely any candidate can find 12 sources of positive and professional references. I always have been a bit prejudiced towards all kinds of recommendations and references, since most of them are written along the general lines and are rarely prepared for a specific position, that’s why I always took them with a grain of salt. Nevertheless, references are made to help recruiters, but it seems to me that in this case a recruiter is probably looking for an excuse not to hire a person.

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Kara January 29, 2014 at 8:10 pm

I was asked for EIGHT references for a mid-level project management position with a very large fortune 500 software company. EIGHT. and it was right around the holidays, so a few people were away. After I gave my EIGHT references, and all of them were called… the company decided NOT to fill the position at all!

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Mary February 4, 2014 at 1:01 am

Well, it’s not references per se, but when I was job hunting, I applied for one job that wanted me to submit three letters of recommendation with my application. And when I submitted without them, they followed up to ask for them. I politely told them that I had included three references with my resume, but was currently on a business trip and unable to procure letters of recommendation. I got an interview but ultimately withdrew myself.

And no, this was not for an entry-level job where one might expect recent graduates to provide generic letters of recommendation from professors. Who wants to read a letter instead of actually asking their own questions?

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JCC February 21, 2014 at 6:23 am

It’s CYA behavior by scared hiring managers. Does the company need that many references to get a good employee? No. But, if the boss storms in threatening to fire you for passing along a bad employee, nothing defuses the situation faster than saying, “but 15 other people claimed the employee was qualified — they fooled everybody.” As long as HR is worried about their own necks, they’re not going to hire for the benefit of anybody else.

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