Yes, you may technically list someone as your reference without asking them. However, it’s not advisable to do so as you may face some repercussions because of it.
References are an important part of a job application. While some companies will ask you to send your references and resume, others will ask you to send them before finalizing your employment.
Hence, citing references who can vouch for your skills is crucial to getting a job. But even more important than that is the kind of relationship you share with your references. You might not know all your references personally. But you must maintain a cordial, professional relationship with all of them.
Citing someone as a reference is a breach of that professionalism. It’s incorrect to assume that just because you know someone, the person will agree to be your reference. Also, it’s always professional and courteous to ask first.
If you try putting yourself in their shoes, then you would understand how inconvenient it would be for you if companies called you at all times, asking about someone without any knowledge beforehand.
Why is it Not Right to List Someone as a Reference Without Asking Them First?
There are a few reasons why it isn’t right for you to list someone as a reference without asking them first.
1. You Don’t Know About Their Availability
Firstly, you don’t know about the availability of the person you want to mention as your reference. For example, assuming your interviews are scheduled within the next couple of weeks, your reference will have a high probability of receiving calls and emails during that period. However, they might have planned a holiday and are unavailable for official reasons.
You would not know that since you haven’t asked. When your company calls them, they might receive no answer or be rebuffed. Both instances might set you back.
2. They Might Not be Interested
Your contact might not be interested in being a reference. Your contacts might not have anything against you, yet they might not be open to receiving calls or emails about someone.
They may not feel comfortable sharing their opinions. If they receive a call for reference out of the blue, they will be wholly unprepared to answer for you. They just might get irritated. And a bad reference isn’t what you need at this point.
3. It is Unprofessional
It is unprofessional to take such liberties in the professional sphere without permission. You cannot use anyone’s name and contact details without asking them first, especially because this person will receive many calls and emails at various times of the day.
All of this could become cumbersome for them. Even if you had a good rapport with this person, this could ruin your professional relationship.
4. You May Not Have Contact Details
You might not know their recent contact details if you list a friend as your reference without asking them first. Maybe they had changed their phone number. Such a situation may arise if you last spoke to them a while ago. As a result, the employers won’t be able to contact your references.
Your reference will take some time to figure out why they are being called about someone they are not even in touch with. It will just give rise to a lot of confusion, and you would want to avoid this during your hiring period.
What Can Happen to You if You List Someone as a Reference Without Their Knowledge?
If you list someone as a reference without their knowledge, then this can give rise to certain problems for you.
Firstly, your reference will have no time to prepare. Since you have listed the person as a reference before speaking to them, they will be unprepared to answer any question about you. They will not have any idea about the company you have applied to, the designation you have applied for, and how to portray you in the best possible light so that the company sees you as a good fit.
Secondly, suppose they are in the middle of something important. In that case, they might reply properly or might not speak for long to the company representatives and might give unfruitful answers to their questions.
Besides, if you have listed someone without their permission, one of the reasons for doing so could be that you don’t communicate with them frequently.
And if this person happens to be someone with whom you have shared a frosty relationship, then they are not a good choice as a reference, to begin with. They might say something negative just because they have a grudge against you.
Hence, for all these reasons, you must choose your references carefully. And ask them before citing them as references. That way, they will get a chance to prepare and be available when contacted. And you can be sure that your recruiters will get a positive response.
What is The Correct Way of Asking Someone to Be Your Reference?
Once you have decided to list someone as your reference on a resume, this is how you should go about it.
1. Ask For a Meeting
You can ask for a meeting with the person you want to list as a reference for your job application. If you only know them professionally, then sending them an email might be a good idea. Tell them why you want to meet them. If you are on friendly terms, you can call and ask them if they can meet you.
2. Explain Why You Want to List Them as a Reference
Once you meet them, please explain why you want them as your reference. Maybe, they are your dean who saw you perform well at college and know you are hardworking.
They may be your former employer and can say how well you learned on the job. Or they are your colleagues who can vouch that you are a team player. Tell them how much it would mean to you if they could give the recruiters their opinion of you.
3. Explain The Job Description
Tell your references about the company and job you are applying to. It will give them some time to prepare so that they know what to say when the recruiters call. They can form their answers to ensure that the qualities they speak of show that you will be a good fit for the job.
4. Ask For Updated Contact Details And Time of Contact
Once they have permission, ask them for their updated contact details, like their email and phone number. Also, ask them about their availability and the time for contacting them. Note them down, and mention the details while citing references.
5. Express Your Gratitude
Once the recruitment process is over and the reference calls are done, get back to the references and thank them for what they did for you. You should do this even if you do not get the job. It’s a courteous and professional gesture, and this will pave the way for future references, just in case you need to list them as references again.
What to do if Someone Refuses to be Your Reference?
Once you ask someone to be your reference, you always have to prepare for the possibility that they may refuse. In that case, you can request them once again. If they still refuse, thank them for speaking to you, and do not try to force them.
Then start looking for someone else who will be willing to be your reference. Under no circumstances should you include someone’s name once they have already refused you. If they still get calls from recruiters asking questions about you, that will be a serious breach.
Moreover, even if they agree to be your reference, do not ask them to say things to your recruiter about you which are not facts. Please do not ask them to exaggerate your qualities. Rather, tell them to share their honest opinion of you and highlight any good skills they think you possess. That will be a more impartial approach, and in most cases, your reference will be pleased to share their thoughts.
Mistakes to Avoid While Listing Someone as a Reference
Apart from listing references without the person’s permission, there are some other things that job applicants need to correct while citing references. These are things that should be avoided at all costs.
1. Never Lie About Your References
You may assume that your recruiters will not check the background of your references because it means too much work. However, meticulous recruiters will often do a cross-reference, so make sure everything is clear from your end.
2. Do Not Fail to Specify When Your References Can be Contacted
If not, your recruiters may call your references when they are busy and get no response. Always ask your references when is the best time to contact them and state it beside their names.
3. Do Not Provide Fake References
Some candidates try to sneak in fake names with high-sounding credentials besides the names. They assume that names of high-profile companies, prestigious institutes, or senior designations will be enough.
They also assume that the recruiters will be impressed by what they see on paper and will probably not try to call back or cross-check.
However, many recruiters do a cross-examination, and they will probably reject your application when they see you have given fake references.
Listing someone as a reference without asking them can go badly for you. The reference may oblige and try to answer the recruiter’s questions about you as best as possible. But you cannot count on it.
Too many things could go wrong when someone is contacted for something important without their knowledge. If the recruiters contact them at a difficult time, their responses will directly impact your selection. Hence, it is better to inform your references, and you will not have anything to leave to chance.