"I¬†learned the hard way when a recruiter wanted my references before I had an interview with their client.¬†They called my old boss within an hour of me giving the reference and tried to shake her down for leads." I was trolling through¬†a bunch of job boards the other day and came across a thread about the practice of recruiters and staffing agencies using references for lead generation, and thought I would share some of the comments for discussion.
"I won't use a staffing company again and here's why. After meeting with one recently, where they ¬†gave me a show and a big talk about a position available and how I'd be a great candidate etc., they took my references. I later found out they called them up and gave them sales pitches and tried to get them to give up the names of company decision makers. Soon after I got a form email saying the position was full."
"The staffing company took my references, called all of them and gave them sales pitches and tried to get them to give up the names of company decision makers."
"Because of previous bad experiences now I won't provide references until after a face-to-face meeting with a client. After telling recruiters this, they say things such as, 'that's not how this works' and 'well, it's your career.'"
"I had a call last week from a staffing firm I was already registered with. They said they were interested in knowing where I was in my job search. When I told them I was working, they wanted to know where, and also the name of my supervisor. I didn't want to say, and then they started pressuring me for names of other people I know who are looking for work. I am just tired of them calling and sounding so interested and just wanting information when they have nothing to offer me!"
"I think it's just a really a big scam. They may or may not have a job to offer me, but seem more interested in my managers' cell phone numbers."
"In the last 2 weeks I have been contacted by several recruiters saying they have job opportunities for me, but before they could set up interviews with the client, they need to check my references, and the references have to be a manager and above. I¬†provided some references of immediate supervisors, but not managers. They did not setup any interviews for me because they said I didn't provide them the names of a manager. I think it's just a really a big scam. They may or may not have a job to offer me, but seem more interested in my managers' cell phone numbers presumably so they can contact them and ask for job leads."¬†
"What if I give the phone number of my former manager to 10 recruiters and the manager is called 10 times and I get NO interviews? So, now I'm still jobless and my ex-manager hates me. What ¬†happens the 11th time?"
"I was contacted recently by a staffing company I have previously worked for. They wanted to know if I am looking for work currently, and when they found out I am, said they want my references so they can 'promote pre-screened applicants to client companies without reservation.'¬†I told them I understood, but if my professional references get too many calls about me, they may simply decide not to respond and I will miss out on good opportunities.¬†We agreed to disagree and I was dropped from consideration. You can't win. I feel like it's one big fishing expedition."
I called up a friend of mine who manages a mid-size staffing firm in Minnesota, where fishing is one of the most popular pastimes, and used the fishing for leads¬†line.
"No, it's not fishing for leads, it's doing what your client is asking of you. Part of the reason companies use staffing firms to begin with is to do things they don't want to such as checking references."
"No, it's not fishing for leads, it's doing what your client is asking of you," he said. "Part of the reason companies use staffing firms to begin with is so we can do things they don't want to, or don't have time to, such as finding candidates, negotiating pay rates, checking references, etc. Do recruiters send leads to their account managers? Of course. But it's not why we ask for them. We ask for them because we need to verify that what is on a candidate's resume is actually true. If you're not willing to provide references, well, that's most often a huge red flag for us."
He closed the conversation by saying if someone is¬†looking for a new job, and they're working with a recruiter, then be prepared to give references up front.
"Otherwise, simply blindly submit your resume to a general email address where it will get lumped in with hundreds, or even thousands, of others."
Is the practice of using references for lead generation widespread? A common practice? Is it considered a good practice or just something that is kind of tolerated? From the comments it sure seems like it's not endorsed by candidates.
Are there good ways to check references without wearing out the reference givers? Are you judicious or selective about who you ask to provide references? Without giving away any secret fishing holes, what are your best sources for leads these days if you aren't routinely using references for lead generation?