Trust enthusiasm. Fear okay.
If something always goes wrong in your job interviews after the point where references are checked, you probably want to rethink your references.
Some of your references may be knifing you in the back. They are your phantom friends. You thought they would give good references. They were always friendly. Still, they may have thought you were a poor worker. They might just be unable to compliment anyone.
Trust enthusiasm, fear “okay”
You can’t trust a reference to tell you directly, “I’m going to say bad things.” If you ask someone to be your reference and they say, “I’d love to. You were a great worker. I will brag about how well you did. You were wonderful”, they are probably a good reference. If they only say, “Okay”, be careful.
Ask Mr. Okay, “Will you say that if it was up to you, you would rehire me?” If you get any hedging, don’t use this reference. For instance, “I’ll tell them I would rehire you under the right circumstances,” is hedging. “Jim, you know I don’t have the authority to rehire you,” is also hedging. “Of course! I’d rehire you and give you a raise. I really wish you were still here,” is the positive reference you are looking for.
If you are concerned that someone might be a phantom friend, drop them from the reference list. Find someone else. That’s the safest bet.
Have someone else check your references
You can always have someone check out your references for you. They will call up and say, “I’m checking Jane Doe’s references. Would you recommend her for the same job she had?” They also have to ask, “Would you rehire her?”
Your references are one of your strongest job search weapons. Make sure they really are good references. It will make a huge difference.