There's a fear in the IT Freelancer market that giving away a reference is a bad idea. But references serve an important role in demonstrating candidate credibility and can make or break securing a position. We spoke to Matt Williams, our Freelance/Interim Recruitment Lead for Software & Cloud freelancers in Germany for his insights.
Matt has been working in the technology recruitment industry for over 8 years and was approached by Montash to help set up a practice for Software Development & Cloud freelancers in Germany. "As well as being a high growth opportunity, it gave me the chance to start something new and create a practice providing a higher level of service than standard in the industry."
Matt prides himself on only ever presenting candidates to clients that he knows, or have been fully referenced first and is aiming to implement this as standard wherever possible for the practice at Montash. "Hiring managers block out big chunks of time in their day to conduct interviews and all too often they end up sitting opposite the wrong candidate because they weren't vetted properly."
Providing candidates that are fully referenced and vouched for by trusted sources saves time for everyone involved.
Should IT freelancers give references readily?
The opinion of some IT freelancers is that even when there is no chance of an interview, and no actual job to fill, recruiters will ask for a reference.
Agents asking for references early simply want to find the people who take on contractors and hope you'll oblige by handing out the names and phone numbers of your old bosses. Then they'll reach out to your old bosses, overlook you, and put their own candidate in a role for that client's next project.
"Recruitment consultants are always looking to network and develop their connections. It's part of how they are able to develop the relationships that land contractors the roles they want. But there are some things a candidate can do to allay their fears."
"Do your research on your recruiters. Challenge them about the roles they offer and question their credibility. Do your due diligence and make sure the recruitment agent you use is working in your interest."
IT contractors should never feel under pressure to provide references. They should feel confident that the recruitment agent they use is prepared to vouch for them and champion their skills and experience to the client.
How to best present yourself in a competitive marketplace
"In such a competitive environment, references help cut through the noise. An application holds much more weight when it comes with a personal reference. Candidates need to present themselves in the best possible light."
Make yourself available
"When I first started, social media sites such as LinkedIn and Xing was gaining traction but weren’t the first choice platform out there for recruiters and job seekers. But today, particularly in Germany there are fewer job boards and many more social media profiles. Thought leaders in the industry are always promoting the use of things like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to find the right candidates too."
Make sure you have a presence on the leading social media channels, as well as the traditional job boards. Your social media profiles should reference the terms recruiters are searching for. Understand how recruiters are searching for your skill set and write your profile to match.
The IT technology market is fast moving and highly competitive. If you're a contractor, it's vital that you're responsive and prompt with your communication. It's all too easy to be passed up for a project if you don't respond quickly enough.
Demonstrate your skill
In addition to providing references, freelance developers should provide links to their GitHub pages and similar platforms to demonstrate their practical skills. They should also provide references to demonstrate past projects they've worked on.
Sharing links to industry contributions, such as blogs, or meet-ups that they've run demonstrate a candidate's passion for the work they do and further demonstrates their merit.
Great candidates present themselves in the best possible light
References help hiring managers make decisions on choosing the right candidate for the job. The more thoroughly a candidate is vetted and promoted, the faster the hiring process will be, which is a boon to all parties involved.
Many clients seek references to qualify experience and not providing them can raise doubts in the client's mind. A lack of trust is a barrier between hiring managers and candidates. The role of an effective recruiter is to develop that trust and present a candidate to a client that is fully vouched for and can provide the project with the skills needed.