HR Guide – 10 – References v 0.7 — 7 Comments

  1. Hi Paul, Thanks so much for this. I am in the private sector and trying to move to a federal job. They have asked me to provide my current supervisor as a reference but I can’t do that because it’s a really small company and there is a huge chance that I will be fired if they know I’m looking elsewhere. If I end up getting screened out, i would have put my current job in jeopardy for nothing. What do you advice?

    • Hi Sarah, It’s a crappy situation to be sure.

      The short answer is to contact the HR person who’s asking and explain the situation, and ask if you can give another name or perhaps even two other names.

      The longer answer is that they HAVE to have SOME references, i.e. you have to give SOME names, but they could perhaps do an extra one or two to make up for not having a current one. They often have to adjust, for example, if your current one has only managed you for a very short time, so they have ways around it for other reasons. But explaining you’re external, and the reason, will likely resonate with them (if they’re doing external hiring, they know these issues happen).

      The downside is that they may choose to offer no flexibility, in which case you’re kind of screwed, unfortunately. In the end, it is their decision as to how to handle it, and if one of them says, “No, we need current”, then that’s the decision. If it’s a small company, you might not have another option, but you could offer at least suggest someone who is “next best”. If you’re avoiding the current, they likely won’t accept it if your alternate ones are five years ago, but if you had someone who was more open and willing to offer the ref (coworker, another manager?) on the side, it might be sufficient.

      Good luck, and I’d love to hear what HR gives you for options.


      • Thank you for the quick response Paul. I did offer to provide a reference from my last supervisor from 6 months ago. I haven’t heard back yet but will keep you posted.

  2. Hi Paul,
    These guides are so helpful, thank you. I’m currently in the process for an external PM-06 position (for a tribunal) and my references were contacted about 2 weeks ago. (I did a written test and interview before that, and then had my fingerprints taken). I understand that this doesn’t necessarily mean I passed the interview (I thought it went pretty well, FWIW) but I am also now feeling very disappointed that I haven’t heard yet, that it means I did not get the position. Is this reasonable or do government processes just take longer? I keep fanatically checking my e-mail only to be disappointed every time….

    • Hi RK, alas there is no magic schedule.

      What most people don’t realize is that, generally speaking, each stage has to be completed for everyone before they do the next stage. If you assume an application + written + interview + references, here’s the challenge:

      – applications have a deadline, great;
      – reviewing applications takes time, depending on how many applied, and all have to be reviewed and either exams arranged or rejections sent;
      – written exams all have to be done, and lots of people have holidays, leave, work-related delays, scheduling problems, etc. — it only takes one to slow the process — and all of them have to be graded, with responses sent or interviews arranged;
      – again, it only takes one who is on holidays or approved leave, and the process grinds down — or the people running it are on holidays, but all the interviews have to be arranged, and marked;
      – Even if they do refs for everyone, the people running the process are at the mercy of people acting as references…I’ve been involved in comps where one of the refs was getting ready to go on holidays and was the current supervisor so their ref was almost mandatory, and they left for EIGHT weeks without submitting it first. Another time, a ref was the last one to do it, and sent the email on the last day before vacation after a three week delay, said “See attached” and forgot to attach it. It took three more weeks for them to come back from vacation to resend it this time with the attachment. In the summer, July and August are almost wipeouts…some continue, but there’s also the risk that you run it with an ad up for 2 weeks and people who were on vacation never even saw it.

      Finally, once everything is ALL in from EVERYONE, they review the pool to see who’s in and who’s out, make sure they have a good selection of candidates. And they can and do sometimes sit on it for a week or two while they figure out, okay, who might be the ones we choose? How many do we have budget for? etc. The pool is DONE, but they might not post anything about it…or the DG is away or the Director is away or the HR person is away, or the person who posts it on Publiservice is away.

      I’ve seen a schedule where just after refs were in, everything was done in two weeks. Six weeks is the norm from refs being contacted for an average size comp. But I’ve seen it run 3 months or more before it is finalized. In one case, they were only hiring one person and the person they wanted was on extended leave. So even if they took her, she wasn’t going to start for another 8 months, and thus no rush to finish the pool, they weren’t getting anyone out of it until after her leave was done, assuming she didn’t extend even then.

      Not the news you wanted to hear, but after another week or so, or better to be two weeks, you could send short note to the HR coordinator to ask how it’s going…


      • Gosh, thank you SO much for that detailed response. Whether or not I get the offer, it puts my mind at ease to have SOME insight into how complex the process can be. Really, your kindness and generosity in responding is so appreciated.

        It helps to know the process is long. But I did however hear from someone else in the competition who told me they had received a call last week asking if they were interested in the position. Their references were contacted after this call and they were told they’d hear from them this week. That doesn’t look good for me if offers are going out this week, and well, it’s almost Friday and crickets.

        I never received any such call and my references were contacted shortly after my interview. The person in question is already in the public service though, so I’m assuming they don’t need to go through security screening again and maybe the whole process is different for them?!

        Thank you again for this incredible website and your thoughtful responses.

        • Highly unusual to get asked if interested BEFORE references were called. But yes, it is much faster for them to take someone and if they are looking for someone urgently, it might make them lean in favour of someone else. Yet you can still make the pool. And they may have multiple positions. Keep hoping until you hear something definitive either way.


Leave a Reply to PolyWogg Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *