If you are like most people in the midst of a job search, you probably haven’t given your references much thought. You’ve likely spent more time on your resume, cover letter and networking activities. But references can have a significant impact on the final hiring decision. You need to be ready at a moment’s notice to provide potential employers with at least three solid references.
Human resource managers almost always ask for references when they are seriously considering someone for a position. You want to make sure that you provide a list of individuals that will speak about you in a positive way. Potential employers will also look for inconsistencies between information from your interview and on your resume and what they hear from your references.
Here are some things to consider so you can be sure that your references are the best they can be:
Don't leave anything to chance
References carry a lot
of weight and can really make or break your chances of landing that new
job. References and past employers won't call and warn you that they
are not going to be complimentary. It is wise to take more control by
finding out what every potential reference will say about you. This way
you can weed out the weakest references and keep the top three or four
for the final list to share with potential employers.
Keep it current
Try to keep a running
list of recent references if possible. Ask for references before you
leave your current job. Say something like "If I need a reference, would
you feel comfortable offering a positive recommendation?" Avoid using
that person as a reference if there is any hesitation on their part.
Make sure that your records are correct. When listing your job with a previous employer, be sure that your job title matches the information that organization has on record for you. This can be resolved by a quick phone call to the HR department. Don’t let inconsistencies of this sort reduce your chances of getting the job you want.
Don’t surprise anyone
Stay in touch with
your references and let them know that you are currently seeking
employment. Don’t let them be blindsided by a phone call from a
potential employer. And make sure that the contact information you
provide on your reference list is accurate and up to date.
Don’t rely on relatives as references or a letter of recommendation
want to hear about your work experience so references of a personal
nature are not the best choice. Additionally, although letters of
recommendation can be helpful, information such as title and contact
names can change over time. Make sure that the information in your
letter of recommendation is correct and up to date by contacting the
author of that reference periodically.
Make it easy
People are more likely
to be a reference for you if you help take the weight off of them. Make
it easy for references to say good things about you.
Let them know what you’ve been up to and provide them with an updated
Give them warning that a potential employer has asked for references.
Ask them to let you know when or if they have been contacted.
Always follow-up and say thank you
After your job search is over, contact your references to thank them and let them know how their referral paid off. Be sure to ask if there is any thing you can do for them in return.