HR Contacting References BEFORE Considering My Job Application?

Hey guys,

Got a weird one here. Applied for a job at a state health department and their HR contacted me advising that they would be contacting my referees immediately, however also informed me that my application had not yet been put forward to the panel.

I'm not too concerned but it turns out they're asking my referees (my direct supervisors) to fill out a multi-page form for a job that I apparently haven't been considered for yet.

Doesn't this sound like madness? Surely the panel would read my application before seeking to corroborate my claimed skills and experience, no? It sounds like a whole lot of potentially unnecessary paperwork and burdening my current boss with this isn't a great way to show loyalty to my existing employer.

What are your thoughts? Is this normal?


Withholding referee contact details was not an option. The system simply wouldn't process my application without them and would give an error.


  • +10 votes

    From my experiences this is not normal.
    Referees are usually contacted as part of the job offer (the role is offered subject to satisfactory references etc).
    I have previously refused to provide details of referees until further down the application process.

    Was this an agency or directly with the employer?
    Can you request them not to contact your referees until this has progressed further?


      I've been asked to provide references (& for them to be contacted) after I've been shortlisted. I found that odd but I went with it given that I'd made the shortlist (& it wouldn't have jeopardise my then current employment). Probably wouldn't have agreed to it any earlier.

  • +7 votes

    as above, i don't provide details of references unless they are on verge of a job offer.

  • +7 votes

    Soon for a job interview you'll have to give them a DNA sample, your troll and real social media logins and a 32 page stat dec about why you want to work there.

  • +1 vote

    I used to get this from Michael Page International.

    That's why I stopped using their services.

    These days I just said references are available upon request.

    If you are applying for a role at NewsCorp, they want your Linkedin access.

  • +1 vote

    Yea that's not great. How do your direct supervisors feel about you looking for other jobs? Were referees requested as part of the application?

    I always try to leave referee details right to the end, because it should be a last line of checks for them and I only need to contact referees when it counts. Before that it just seems to create more hassle for referees and potential awkwardness if I don't get the job and the whole thing repeats again soon after.

  • +2 votes

    My advise is only provide references on request.


    Seem unusual in general, but particularly for state health. What state is this? I've been in hiring panels for NSW Health and we are specifically instructed to only call AFTER the preferred applicant is determined AND with confirmed consent to call. But of course, "policy" and "what actually happens" are not necessarily always one and the same.


    With government jobs it's not unusual to have a very through referee report produced. When a colleague of mine applied for a federal government job, our manager spent over 45 minutes being questioned for the referee check. The colleague told me that was longer than he spent in the interview himself.

    That said it's not likely they'd perform these checks without an intention of hiring you (or they thought you were lying through your teeth) as it's a waste of their time too. I'd look on the positive and if you haven't faked your application you're probably in with a really good chance.


    It's normal, most of the medical roles are picked based on the referee reports. That's why there's a statewide system where the referee reports are shared across all hospitals within the state. If you somehow missed it, then it becomes a pain as the HR usually wants the referee reports filled in before they would consider you.


    Yeah nah don't ever give your references until the later stages of the recruitment process…


    Do you currently work within the same state health department?


    Withholding referee contact details was not an option. The system simply wouldn't process my application without them and would give an error.

    Sounds like a cost of doing business, unfortunately.

  • +1 vote

    Welp, after all that I didn't get the job. Didn't get any department specific feedback either.

    I'm not particularly impressed with health department HR processes. The application process was fairly onerous both for me and my referees. I can see these requirements discriminating against a lot of candidates who, through no fault of their own, are unable to get at least three bosses to fill out a form and mail it in before the deadline. That's a pretty tall ask when you apply for multiple jobs. Imagine if they all wanted these reports!

    It doesn't seem reasonable to be demanding all this information upfront, but as a candidate I know we just have to play the game. Unfortunately now everyone at my work knows I'm applying interstate :/


      Did you request feedback on why you were not successful?
      That is reasonably common, and can provide you with valuable information for other potential applications. It also provides you with the opportunity to give feedback to them.

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