A reader writes:
I am trying to find out how long, on average, it would take for a company to check my three references they requested. I have recently checked in with all my references and none has heard anything from that company (no call, email, any contact). It's been three weeks since I forwarded their details to the new employer.
To make things even more frustrating, when asked for an update, the person responsible for checking the references, who is also the person who interviewed me, indicated she has not managed to contact "all my references," implying that they did some. I further heard through the grapevine that she indicated in a meeting with the existing team staff, including the hiring manager, that the "reference" they did do was "lukewarm."
I am totally confused. It is obvious that she did not want me hired, but she could easily have done that by just saying my interview was not that great. What do you make of this?
It certainly doesn't take three weeks to check three references, if you're at all motivated to do it. It usually takes a day or two to check references, assuming the references return your calls quickly (and if they don't, that itself can say something).
There are a few possibilities of what's going on here:
1. The person in charge of checking references is lazy and not doing her job.
2. The person in charge of checking references (and/or the rest of the hiring team) isn't that interested in hiring you, but isn't competent enough to just tell you that straightforwardly.
3. Some or all of your references actually were contacted but since they aren't giving you a great reference are finding it easier to tell you that they weren't, rather than deal with the uncomfortable situation of explaining that they didn't have great things to say.
You can't fully control any of these situations, but you can mitigate all of them. Here's what you should do: Email the hiring manager (not the person in charge of checking your references) and ask for a status update. Mention that your references all told you that they have not yet been contacted, and politely ask what sort of timeline the company is working with, both for when your references might be contacted and when you should expect a decision.
Also, are you very sure that all your references will speak glowingly of you? If you have any doubt at all, you should check in with them and make sure these are the correct choices to offer up as references. Being polite and non-defensive, of course, make it clear that you would never want to influence a reference they give for you, but that you'd also rather not supply references who don't feel they can speak glowingly toward your work. Assure them that if they don't feel they're best suited to serve as a reference for you, they can simply let you know that, without any hard feelings. Make it easy for them to opt out. This is a good thing to do with your references as a matter of course, not just in situations like this.