What is the Difference Between a Verification, a Reference, and a Recommendation?

Some people think that all you need to get a new job is passion and a resume. Although both of these are essential, there are many other things that you need to have in your back pocket in case a potential employer asks for them.

As a job applicant, it’s your responsibility to have your references, verifications, and recommendations lined up before you even begin your job hunt. These terms are often used interchangeably, but they are entirely different.

VERIFICATIONS

  • Verifications include past and present information that is provided formally in writing by a company, school, or other entity.

Verifications simply verify the information you have on your resume, LinkedIn page, professional bio, online application, and any other professional document related to your career. They state the facts in a “black or white, yes or no” manner. You either graduated with a major in accounting, or you didn’t. Verifications may also include licenses, certifications, driving records, and drug tests from the appropriate government or professional associations.

You generally have to request a verification directly from the Human Resources department of an organization (or potentially the owner if you worked at a smaller company). To get this information, there will be a process in place where you will need to provide your Social Security number and relevant dates to the organization.

It will probably take some time to receive verifications back from the school or organization, often a few weeks. So be sure to plan ahead and have these documents in place before you start an active job search.

REFERENCES

  • References provide both past and current information through conversation.

References are a step above verifications as they are provided directly through conversation rather than written documentation. The person giving you the reference should be able to describe the work you have done at their organization, how you communicate with other people, and how they benefited from your work.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Recommendations provide forward-looking opinions and insights about your expected success in a new job based on your past and current performance.

A recommendation is provided directly to a recruiter or hiring manager by someone testifying to your ability to excel in a new job utilizing your education, credentials, experience, skills, and knowledge. Your soft skills may also be discussed, such as your team leadership style or your ability to develop and implement significant process improvements.

During my time as a recruiter for Robert Half, I was specifically trained and became experienced in handling verifications, references, and recommendations. After completing a conversation for a reference or recommendation, I had to fully document it so it could be attached to that person’s permanent file. It was not unusual for me to take an hour to go through the whole process. It’s one of the most time-consuming parts of the interview process. This is why these background checks are usually done right before a job offer is extended to an applicant.

The lesson here is that organizations always do their homework. By hiring you, they will be making a substantial investment in your skills and abilities. This is why you need to be sure that you are 100% telling the truth with the information you provide on your resume. If discrepancies are found by an organization during their due diligence and cannot be explained, then you will probably lose out on a job offer. When it comes to interviews, honesty is always the best policy!