My name is Mark Goodfield. Welcome to The Blunt Bean Counter ™, a blog that shares my thoughts on income taxes, finance and the psychology of money. I am a Chartered Professional Accountant. This blog is meant for everyone, but in particular for high net worth individuals and owners of private corporations. My posts are blunt, opinionated and even have a twist of humour/sarcasm. You've been warned. Please note the blog posts are time sensitive and subject to changes in legislation or law.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Wasting References

Yesterday, I wrote about what I feel is a no-win situation in terms of the legalities of providing a positive or negative reference for a former employee. Today, I just have a brief follow up on how potential employees and employers burn references unnecessarily.

Employees must understand that the person providing the reference is doing them a favour and taking time from their busy schedule to provide this reference. While in most cases they are happy to assist the friend or ex-employee find a new job, they do not want to be called by eight different potential employers over a span of two weeks.
It is thus incumbent upon employees to try and mitigate or control the use of their references until they are a finalist for a job they are serious about.
I realize that this is often beyond the employee’s control, but they need to understand that each time they request a reference from the same person; they are using up a limited amount of goodwill. Although you should always thank your reference sources for helping you in your search for a new job, it would also be prudent to thank, apologize and warn them when you think the potential employer may have wasted a call early in the hiring process. I think such a call would provide some goodwill credit, as you are showing respect for your reference’s time, even if the potential employer did not.

On the flip-side, employers need to respect both the employee and the reference to a greater extent. If an employer is nowhere near a decision, why call a reference? You are wasting the reference’s time and using up the employee’s goodwill unnecessarily. In my opinion, there is absolutely no reason to call references until you have narrowed your group of job applicants down to just a few finalists.

Bloggers Note: A reader sent me this Dilbert comic strip link on references after reading yesterdays blog post. I think it is "bang on" the point being made yesterday and quite funny. Thanks to the reader.

The blogs posted on The Blunt Bean Counter provide information of a general nature. These posts should not be considered specific advice; as each reader's personal financial situation is unique and fact specific. Please contact a professional advisor prior to implementing or acting upon any of the information contained in one of the blogs.


  1. It gets worse than that. My brother found out that a company he was interviewing for was calling his references to solicit business from them.

    And some of the headhunters here in Ottawa want to talk to your references before they even interview you. JUST SAY NO!

    1. Hi Anon, thx for sharing. Wow, that is nervy by the company interviewing him.

    2. Recruitment agents are the worst (surprise, surprise). It's the same story in BC as you described. I often come across recruitment agents who want references up-front, when the first interview has not even been arranged!

    3. Another Anon, what a Great handle :)

      Yes, in general recruiters dont get much universal love.