Skip to Content
California State University, Long BeachCalifornia State University, Long Beach

Telephone Reference Check

How to Deal with an Evasive Reference

Persistence on your part is the answer.

You've called several times and left a message with a secretary that you'd like to talk to Mr. Smith in connection with a reference for Sally Jones. Mr. Smith doesn't call you back. His theory is that by ignoring you, you'll give up.

He's mistaken.

The very fact that he didn't call you back makes you suspicious that there might be something wrong. Try writing a brief letter requesting his assistance in providing a reference for your candidate.

Send a copy of the letter to the candidate. It will probably prompt him or her to contact the former boss and ask him to speak with you. Finally, if you feel you're being sidetracked by a reference contact with whom you do speak, immediately start to check other references at the same company. An evasive response may be a clue that something important is being hidden.