In response to my previous article on why résumés should not list references, blog reader Ana Maria inquired, “I’ve been asked to provide references before an interview. What should I do?”
Short answer: decline politely. Say, “I prefer to give you a list of references after my interview.” Here is why.
References are relevant only during the later part of the recruiting process, i.e. after a prospective employer has interviewed you and desires to check others’ impressions of you prior to extending you an offer.
As a candidate, you should choose to describe yourself first to the prospective employer in an interview. Your references should represent your credentials only after you and the employer have established a mutual interest. This is the established protocol.
Besides, providing references after an interview is respectful of your references. You would not want to bother your references too often or make public their contact information.
The above guideline holds even if you are interviewing through a contracting firm or recruitment agency. Such intermediaries routinely complete reference checks before they present worthy candidates to their clients/recruiters. For that reason, the recruiting agency may contact your references after an initial interview with a representative of the agency. Subsequently, the agency may forward your references’ opinions to a prospective employer, but should not pass your references’ contact information.