Sourcing References: Mining Your Database

In my last article, titled Sourcing References, I outlined my go-to approach for using references as a source for finding candidates. In this article, I will walk you through my second favorite method for using references to source candidates. I’m talking about mining your database for references.

If you follow my first article on sourcing references mentioned above, then you should be asking your candidates for references at an appropriate point in the candidate relationship. When you receive the references, enter them into your database as candidates.

This will help save you from having to mine your database for those references. However, even if you are OCD and masterfully diligent at getting every reference entered into your ATS/CRM as a candidate, it’s still possible that you miss some. Since it is a relatively common practice for people to put references on their resumes, you may have applicants that come in from your job boards, walk-ins or other sources that have references you didn’t record. Many times, we just don’t end up taking the time to scrape them for references. That’s where mining your database for references comes into play.

Most of us use a database that has some level of Boolean search capabilities that allow you to search content on resumes. If you an excellent, then you should be. Here at Genuine, we use CATS.

Whatever system you use, go into the candidate section and enter a simple search string, such as:

“references” NOT “available upon request” NOT “available on request.”

I still have no clue why anyone would waste space on their resume to write any derivation of “references available upon request.” But they do, so we have to account for it.

This will pull up a nice list of usually two to four references per resume that pulls up in the database.

It’s also helpful to narrow things down to a particular position or skill set. For example, sales people often put other sales people and sales managers as their references. So narrow your search down to sales people when completing your search for references. This allows you to more quickly mine these references for a particular position you are filling.

Once you’ve completed that process, and depending on your situation, you may want to give a researcher or sourcer the responsibility of going through these references, calling them and qualifying them. It would be relatively easy to develop a Talk Track Angle for doing that. Something to the effect of:

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“Hi (reference’s first name), I’m (your first name) from (XYZ Company). You were previously put down as a reference by (first name of former candidate), and we just wanted to make sure that we had all your information correct. Do you mind taking a minute to help me do that?

I have you as (first name) (spell last name). Your phone number is (say the number). Okay. And (reference’s first name) what’s your title? And where do you currently work?”

At this point, you could switch hats to present an opportunity or gauge how open they are to staying in touch, as is mentioned in my previous article.

If you do not have the luxury or staff to do that, then you can always go through and qualify them yourself.

That’s about all there is to it. It’s simple, and many of these unmined references can become placements if you just take the time to mine them. It’s worth the extra effort.


Josh is the Owner/President of Genuine Recruiting. He grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and currently resides in Utah. He pursued an undergraduate in Economics at BYU, where he also was a member of the BYU Men’s Volleyball team. Some consider Josh the Rudy of BYU volleyball but don't expect any movies on that. In his first interview out of college the company’s CEO pegged Josh as a recruiter. That began what has become a fulfilling career in one of the most rewarding industries, helping companies to grow and people to feed their families. Josh has worked as an in-house recruiter, 3rd party recruiter, and even a hybrid of both. In 2011 he helped start a 3rd party recruiting firm for a nation-wide group of marketing companies and then 4 years ago started Genuine Recruiting working with IT companies that have a footprint in Utah.