Person A calls me out of the blue one day and asks if I will provide character reference to a potential employer. No "please, can you?", no "it would mean a lot", just a straight question. This guy had worked with me in the past. He had quit the project without completing his assigned deliverables. I was more than a little surprised at his brazenness, but agreed. When the employer called me, I gave a neutral character reference (as in "yes, he worked with me for 4 months".) After the call was completed, Person A just disappeared. No phone call, no email, no "I appreciate your time".
Then there's Person B who does something really stupid. He uses me as a reference for landing a new gig and forgets to tell me about it. After the reference check is completed, he calls me to thank me. Classy.
Since most, if not all, blog readers are probably tech workers and The Heydays (as in "HEY, I can pay you more!") Are Back Again, guys, if you must provide a reference, could you please try and follow this simple sequence of steps?
1. Call/email your contact BEFORE you need a reference and ask him if he is comfortable providing a character reference. (Some people may not wish to vouch for your character, but could be comfortable in providing a "technical skill" reference.)
2. If the answer to your question is a YES, ask him if he prefers to talk on his work number or his cellphone. If the answer is "just ask them to email me the questions", do just that.
3. Ask your reference if he has a preferred time for taking this important call. Late night and dawn are both bad for doing references checks.
4. Share the Reference's Name, Title and the Preferred Time and Contact method with your prospective employer.
5. Tell your reference the name and title of the person who will be calling. (Or at least the name of the department.)
6. After the call, email your reference a thank-you note. Or thank him on the phone. Even if you don't get the job.
7. Upon signing that job offer, send your reference a check for a thousand dollars. Isn't that why it's called a reference check?