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I'm a university student applying for part-time and full-time contract jobs. I just moved to the US (from Canada, where I did two work terms) so I'm going to need more than one part-time job so that I can pay rent, university fees, etc. I'll be applying to quite a bit of jobs over the next month or two. Right when I began my job search, I found a part-time job which requested me to provide references during the application process itself. When I lived in Canada applying for work terms, I normally was asked to provide references during the interview step (meaning the reference should expect a call within the next few weeks for sure), and right after the interview step, if I got the job, then my manager would not have to expect any phone calls about me anymore (because I was only looking for one job back then).

This situation is a bit different. Not only will I be continuously applying for jobs because I'm looking to work more than one job at a time (so my managers will have to be a reference for quite some time), but this job posting requires me to provide a reference during the application process itself (so it's not even a guarantee that they will call my previous manager because I didn't even make it to the interview step yet).

I think it is an inconvenience to my previous managers to have to expect phone calls about me for the next month or two. With that said, what should I do in my situation (applying for jobs for the next month or two and planning on taking multiple jobs at once - which means multiple companies might call the reference. On top of that, some companies request a reference during the application process itself so it is no guarantee that a phone call will come at all)?

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Short answer: Generally speaking, reference checks are performed after the interview stage and normally if you are the preferred applicant.

It takes time to ring a whole bunch of people and ask them questions so you want to limit this to as few as possible. Preferably one. So the process normally follows:

  • A prospective employer first needs to cull the list of applicants down to a reasonable level that they can then bring in to interview. The shortlisting process will bring this down to a group of perhaps 3 - 7 applicants.
  • They then will find out if you know your stuff first and an interview will shake any questions they have about your skill and how well you fit with the team.
  • Lastly they'll contact your references and any background checks, and if everything is okay then they'll make an offer.

The reference check is in reality a verification step to confirm what they already believe. They want to know if their impressions of you that they could only make in a very small time window are correct. Also, speaking to someone about you verifies that what you have told them is true about your work history.

So really, unless the organisation has asked you for references, don't supply them. If you haven't had an interview then it's very unlikely that they will contact your referees.

  • right, so this is my situation: on the website of the company, they said "send your resume along with a Filled out Application Form to @.com". The application form requires my name, any previous criminal records, previous work history and work references. It also requires my signature and says "I authorize any library personnel to contact co-workers filled out on this form and as agreed upon during any interview". So should I contact my manager before I apply for the position, telling him he Might be contacted since I am applying for jobs for the next month or two? – user18703 Aug 7 '15 at 2:55
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    @user18703 If you have their permission to use them as a referee (make sure you have this first!), then you do not have to tell them to expect a call until you have actually had an interview. – Jane S Aug 7 '15 at 3:09
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They ask you to "authorize any library personnel to contact co-workers"? That's extraordinarily naughty. The usual understanding is that references will be checked by some HR personnel who is qualified to do this in a sensitive way, without for example upsetting the old boss, and not by any nosy personnel. And asking for references during the application process is very, very unusual.

Normally references would only be checked when the company decides that you are the one they would want to hire, and you agree. Since 99% of the time there is no problem that comes up in a reference check, checking when there is still more than one candidate is just a waste of time.

I think I would recommend to try to find a different company to apply to.

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