As a job seeker, here's why you need to ensure recruiters don't call your referees until you want them to do so.
First of all, referees do not belong on CVs. I've covered this in another video. If you still have them there, delete them. They don't belong there. Let's just cover what could happen if you do have referees on your CV. Well, the risk you take is that the employer or the recruiter, they read your CV, notice your references and call them without you knowing it. "Hey, I've just received an application from so-and-so. How are they? Are the worth talking to? Tell me a little bit more about them. The recruiter is probably patting themselves on the back for getting that information and for being creative, proactive."
You on the other hand, could be in a situation where you have not had a chance to give you referees a thumbs up that they will be receiving a call. So they're caught off guard. This may make you look unprofessional. It's not a good first impression. On that note the referees, whatever they say about you, is naturally important too, because many employers withdraw an offer of employment after receiving a poor reference about an otherwise successful applicant. So you may get disqualified before the race even starts - before you even receive the phone screening call - because of what the referees have said.
Given the high number of rejections, it is important to prepare your referees for that reference check call too. So first of all, don't list a person as a referee without their permission. I see it so often. I call the referees and they say, "oh, I didn't know he was looking for another opportunity." "Oh, I haven't spoken to him for years." Or the referee simply says "I'm not really prepared to give you a reference check."
You should also inform the referees of the name of the person who will be calling, the company name and the position you have applied for. Tell the referees about the duties and the responsibilities and the KPIs. Tell the referees what your potential new employer is looking for and why you are interested in this position. Tell them the reason why you think that you can do the job well, as well as why it would be a good career move for you. Get them excited on your behalf. Then they can prepare themselves for the reference check call and give an honest answer. Maybe putting you in a better light, because few referees will try to obstruct you getting a new opportunity.
You will need to get the referees on board to promote you. However, this may not stop a recruiter calling someone they know within the company, someone you have not listed as a referee. Sure, they are breaking the privacy act. They obviously don't care, or they're ignorant. Either way, you are risk. You need to try to stop them from doing this. So I recommend you add a sentence in your cover letter that sounds like this, "I would appreciate if you keep my application confidential, as I do not wish that my past employers, colleagues and business associates know that I am considering moving to a new opportunity." That may or may not stop them from contacting an employee of the company, but it's definitely worth giving a go.
Don't allow reference checks to be conducted until a preliminary verbal or in writing offer has been made and accepted. Let's say a reference check was done and you didn't get the job. The next time the referee gets a reference check call, the referee might say to the recruiter, "oh is he/she still in the market? She's been looking for six to 12 months. Did she lose her job again? I gave her a reference check three months ago." Or he might say "Oh, she seems to be applying for a lot of positions and cannot get a job. You're the fifth reference check I've done for her over the last six months." To make things worse, the referee will turn around to your past colleagues and say "she's still in the market and she's really struggling getting a job." Now you past manager and your colleagues know what you're doing and your privacy has once again been compromised.
You need to ask the referees to please keep it confidential that you're looking for another opportunity. Try to keep a lid on it. Keep your referees close to you. If a recruiter asks you for referees early in the process, be careful. In the end, it is your call and you might be okay with it. An example is a cash or contract position where you need to be ready to accept an opportunity with little or no notice. But you do need to exercise some control over the access to your referees. I hope you found it valuable and I do thank you for your time.