If I've learned one thing lately, it's the people will try to talk you out of something that they, themselves fear. Recently, a friend tried to talk me out of my fitness routine because he thought I didn't "need it". When I told him that it made me feel good, he said I looked fine (I'm not joking). He's a really nice guy and a good friend, but I couldn't help thinking that his opinion on my exercising had more to do with him than me. I think that seeing others do something for themselves hits close to home for a lot of us. It forces you to question yourself: "should I be doing that too?" and "I'm not doing that...does that mean they don't want to be like me?". Asking myself those questions is what got me started working out again in the first place. They can be really productive questions to ask yourself if you are willing to go there (by the way, my friend didn't mean anything...he just speaks what he thinks and his perspective on the topic was influenced by the fact that his lifestyle is very different than mine). There are other people that, when you tell them you are working out, will immediately start rattling off the reasons why they don't. People are funny (and kind of self-involved...um, myself included I guess given how much time I am willing to spend at the gym and talking about my life here).

Which is why I can't help but wonder (in my best Carrie Bradshaw voice): why do we ask for employment references on job applications when the fact that the candidate asking a co-worker for a reference may set the co-worker on a campaign to convince the candidate to stay? The co-worker starts thinking "hmm, why don't they want to stay here with me?", "should I be looking for a new job too?".

Filling out the job application is too early in the process to be asking for references. At the early stages of the recruitment cycle, the candidate has little invested in the process; having not yet interviewed, not yet feeling a person-to-person connection with the team members, not knowing much about the group/business/role. By asking for the reference information up front, are we basically asking the candidate to let someone talk them out of leaving at a point in the process where the candidate hasn't necessarily decided they want the position? And with plenty of time to convince the candidate to stay while the candidate goes through the interview process?

I realize that most candidates will not ask their direct manager for a reference up front, signaling their intention to leave the company. But even asking a co-worker or former manager for a reference could involve additional personalities with different agendas and personal perspectives to weigh in on the opportunity. I'm not sure that this often leads the candidate to re-evaluate the new opportunity, but it certainly is an unnecessary risk.

I suspect that recruiters do themselves a disservice by asking for references before they are prepared to check them. Hiring companies would be better served by selecting their talent and getting them good and excited about the opportunity before they send them back to their employer to ask for a recommendation.

Does anyone think differently about this? It's such a standard practice, but it doesn't make a lot of sense to me.