Why You Should NOT Believe in References

Whether you are hiring somebody, or hearing a recommendation, otherwise, doing some background checks — have you ever thought that this process is just an exercise in futility?


Common sense tells us that job seekers would naturally give their best references — whether it’s their superior, associate or whoever — just someone whom they had a good relationship with, yes, business or personal. This means, whatever you hear from these references is closer to a fairy tale than to reality. And this could even go as far as padding on their attitude, accomplishments and stuff.

Now, if you try to just randomly contact anyone from his previous employers (or perhaps even neighbors??) — you could either get supporters or haters. That simple. This means, if they do not really know or like the candidate you are inquiring about, they would just give a cold shoulder or worse, even tarnish his reputation. Else, if they like that particular person (or looks forward to some favor in return) then they would, of course, give favorable comments about him.

References could be real, or fake friends

So, what’s the point of getting in touch with references then?

Common sense simply tells us that references is the product of checking on one’s tenure. And that’s where the problem lies — giving much weight on ‘experience’ rather than real potential. Obviously, such cases only happens to ‘traditional’ thinkers, yes, whether recruiters or employers. And so, the most they would get is just someone that’s good enough — not someone who could rock the status quo and take companies to the next level. Not those kinds of achievers.

As we keep saying, whether one is changing careers or what — anything and everything could be learned — so why be too concerned about one’s experience? Unless the guy is dumb or a slow learner, only then would that be a problem. See, business and just about anything is common sense, thus, what really matters is creativity and foresight — which only the incompetent could not understand, more so, accept. After all, these incompetent people took so, so long to build a career.

Yet realize, the number of hours at work does not necessarily expose those traits. And since business is unpredictable, determining one’s level of creativity, foresight and how he would handle things could either take years — or even just on your first meeting — as it all really depends on the current situation and near future. Do you follow?

Unemployment or underemployment is not a résumé issue but a stereotyping conundrum that has plagued the world — and resulted in chaos, civil unrest and more so, waste of real talents that were never really given that opportunity.

Thus, wouldn’t it be more sensible to test job seekers through case studies rather than rely on structured interviews and especially references?? In the end, references is more about likability than anything else. And unless this candidate aims to build a career in sales and marketing (where sweet-talking is most useful), likability actually adulterates a person’s real value. Sweet-talking does not uphold integrity! Sweet-talkers (or likable people) would rather hide the elephant or go on with the flow than tell the truth that could challenge the process — and their own security!

Bottom line is, these case studies are more than just theory, they are (or should be) actual corporate problems or even worst case scenarios that could happen to an organization (or even industry) that only real talents could solve with flying colors. Meanwhile, character and intellect are what determines how you see and solve things — not experience, which only says how slow and scared one really is.

And this is why you should not believe in references.