I was contacted by a recruiting agency about a couple of jobs, but as part of their onboarding process they demanded 4 references, with complete contact information. I told them that I would give them references when a tangible opportunity is available, and that it didn't feel right disclosing other people's information without their consent. That was the end of the conversation and they were adamant and refused to proceed unless such references were provided.

Is this common? Should I have given them the references?

  • 1
    What problem are you trying to resolve?
    – enderland
    Jul 18, 2014 at 13:29
  • 9
    @enderland what ? the question is clear. Jul 18, 2014 at 17:14
  • 2
    So it goes. Never forget - there are a million recruiting companies and they need you more than you need them. Jul 18, 2014 at 22:10

2 Answers 2


That was the end of the conversation and they were adamant and refused to proceed unless such references were provided.

Is this common? Should I have given them the references?

Some recruiters use your references to vet you, before recommending you to a hiring manager. Particularly with contractors, I've found this to be common.

I too don't give out my list of references until I have an offer on the table (I'm not a contractor). Thus, I wouldn't work with a recruiter who demanded otherwise.

I've been able to find head-hunters and recruiters who would work with me on this. If you are willing to wait long enough, you'll like be able to do the same.

I would never use anyone as a reference without obtaining their consent first. When I start a job search, I talk to each of them. And when I get to the point in a particular interview scenario where they will be contacted, I give my references a quick heads-up.

  • Thank you, Joe. It felt somewhat like they were mining for data, and I would never offer other people's information without their consent.
    – user1220
    Jul 18, 2014 at 13:32
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    Great answer @Joe. (@user1220 I don't know if they were datamining or not...but Joe's definitely right about finding a headhunter and/or agency that will work with you and not demand things out of their proper turn. I also personally shy away from companies that want my SSN before they have a firm offer to tender to me, let alone before they've sent me any jobs to look over. I have spent years as both a contractor and a regular hire, and I won't give references out before I have an offer either. My references don't need to be hounded with phone calls from world + dog.)
    – user22432
    Jul 18, 2014 at 14:53

My personal experience

When I started looking for my first job out of college, a recruiter from a recruiting company contacted me and asked me for my resume, along with my references. Note that he didn't actually have any specific jobs for me in mind yet, he just wanted my information, which I assumed he was going to use to look around for a suitable job match.

I foolishly gave my list of references to him, which was a huge mistake. He ended up contacting one of my references weeks later. I'm not exactly sure why, because this recruiter never got back to me personally about having found a possible job opening. I only found out that the recruiter had contacted my reference because my reference brought it up to me himself.

It was extremely embarrassing. My reference had spent his time giving me a glowing recommendation to this recruiter, who had not contacted me since I gave him my resume and references, and who hadn't contacted me after speaking with my reference either. I have no idea if he was trying to vet me for a specific job, or just vetting me in general. Either way, the point is, my reference's time was being wasted for nothing.

Guard your reference list

I would suggest that you only hand out your list of references to companies who are actually interviewing you directly, instead of passing them off to a 3rd-party. You don't know and have no control over how that 3rd-party is going to use that list.

You can find more answers to that effect at Should references in a resume be upfront, or upon request?.

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