Agencies Ask for References for Contracts I Never Get

Understanding Recruitment Atgencies
Contract Job Agencies

Agencies Ask for References


A reader, James, sent in this article about when Agencies Ask for References.

I have lost count of the number of times that agencies have told me that they have jobs for me but that the employer needs references. I keep supplying them but these never turn into jobs.

They don’t even turn into interviews.

I thought that, perhaps, one of my old bosses was giving me a bad reference, and putting the agencies off me.

It was so much my belief that this must be it that I got a friend of mine to phone up my old bosses saying that he worked for an agency and needed references for jobs.

References Lead to No Contracts

The references, however, were as good as gold. They sung my praises.

With references like that, how come agencies can’t get me jobs? With references like that how come they can’t even get me interviews.

All those references seem to lead to nothing at all.

Have you any idea what is happening Dr. McLaughlin?

Dr. McLaughlin’s Contractor Surgery

Yes, I do indeed know what is happening.

You are wrong! The references that you gave the agencies didn’t lead to nothing at all.

They lead to new contacts for the agencies and potentially new sources of contracts and income for them.

That’s why they are doing it, not to find you work. They almost certainly never had a job for you in the first place.

Agencies Spamming References

It’s a fairly well known trick in the industry. It’s called Spamming References.

What agencies are hoping to get out of this is the opportunity to ask your old bosses if they are looking for any more contractors.

Almost certainly they never even took any references for you at all. Why don’t you call up your old bosses and ask how many times agencies have called you for references and compare it to the number of times you have given their name.

You might even find that the only person asking for references was your good old pal.

Agency Spin

Agencies say that it is good that this happens because every lead they get is a potential new job for another contractor.

IT Contractors say that it doesn’t increase the number of contracts available but simply increases the number of agencies who know about them.

Whichever way you think, it is certainly not ethical to raise a contractor’s hopes by pretending that they might have a job for him or her, when they don’t and you just want to spam references.

In any language this is deceit – and cruel deceit too.

Providing References

In future, I wouldn’t give them any references. There are very few companies that need references before you see them.

One agent of my acquaintance said that in 16 years of agency work he had never ever had to provide references before an interview.

Tell the agency that references will be provided at the interview.

Try and get written references from your old bosses on company notepaper and with their contact details on them so that you can supply these to clients.

New Contractor

If the employers really need the references beforehand, ask the agency to supply the name and address of the potential client and you’ll send them on.

That’ll quickly sort out if there is a real job or not.

I suspect that you might be a relatively new contractor, James, as this is a common agency dirty trick.

They are wily old buzzards and they pride themselves on being able to outsmart the poor old contractors.

Make sure that in the future that you are not one of those duped.

When agencies ask for references, beware!

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  1. The problem is for managers this is a big time consuming. A 5 minutes phone call will be enough. If you plan to move along with your career you have to give at least 2, so, you have to ask again to the same person, for boring and long phone interviews or written questions


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