So you’ve mastered the art of resume writing. You’ve researched your industry and know all the buzz words that’ll catch an employer’s attention. The formatting and font are perfect. And for theatrics; there’s even a splash of color. On top of this, you have improved your interviewing skills. Whether it’s one-on-one, a panel, in-person, or virtual you know how to answer those tough questions and create colorful responses to show interest and start a meaningful conversation guaranteeing a lasting impression. And the outfit? It’s already on the hanger! Pressed with the shiny shoes to match. You’re going to look so good; you could go from the interview straight to a black-tie affair. Since all these checklist items are covered, you have nothing else to worry about, right? WRONG. A key piece that many overlook while in the market for jobs is the selection of references. Oh, I’ll just figure it out once they ask is the approach that most take. Or they believe that once there is a request for references they’ve already been selected for the job so it doesn’t really matter who they are or what they say. False. Some applications even ask for references up front these days, so instead of thumbing through your phone last minute, you need to really think about who your references are and have their information handy. Below are some tips to ensure you have picked great references that can help lead you to the position you desire.
- Have a manager and supervisor as a reference: Your superiors have the most knowledge of how you perform. They have assigned tasks to you and oversee just about your every move. Their views will also show the nature of your relationship, which can serve as a foreshadowing of what to expect should you be selected for a position. Many roles now (depending on your industry) require at least 2 upper-level references. Oop? Didn’t think about that? That’s why it’s very important to leave organizations in good standing. While you’re at your current job, cultivate these relationships, knowing that you will probably need them one day. We live in a time where you can find just about anyone via social media. Don’t be afraid to reach out to an old boss (that you didn’t tick off) and see if it would be okay to list them. Please start the conversation politely. Ask how they’ve been and briefly reflect on your experiences together.
- Working at the same company doesn’t automatically = a good reference: Aside from management, your references should be your peers. Their input will express your ability to work as a team. I know you talk to people in different departments and hang out at happy hour, but what can they really say about you relating to performance? A peer is not only limited to your coworkers, but colleagues are also acceptable because they can speak to your work ethic and ambitions. Depending on the industry you’re in, character references aren’t always acceptable. A character reference is somebody that simply knows you and probably hasn’t witnessed your professional achievements. The most common picks are friends and family. It’s good to know who in your circle would speak highly of your character, but it is recommended that you focus on those individuals with first-hand knowledge of what you can do within a work-environment.
- Select people who are responsive and have good verbal and writing skills: Alright, you have all the right people selected, the next thing you need to think about is their ability to articulate and respond timely. They can have all the information in the world, but if the answer to every question is a simple yes or no, that’s a problem. Don’t be afraid to have the discussion with your references to ensure they represent properly and aren’t having a lackadaisical approach. Some references are performed by phone and some have to be written by the references. Keep that in mind.
- Make sure the contact information is current: Been a while since you’ve talked to your references? Better make sure that email and phone numbers are still the same. Sometimes people change their names or gender identity. The last thing you want to do is set a recruiter up to offend your reference.
- Inform your references that you’re seeking employment: Hey guys! I’m looking for a job (give examples). Let people know so they can look out for the email or call from an unfamiliar source. We get so much spam these days, we oftentimes ignore what we don’t recognize. References are time-sensitive and can result in a delayed start or even someone else being selected instead of you. Be sure to let everyone selected, know your goals.
- Update the list as needed: That job you worked part-time, while in undergrad is still a viable reference. Especially if that job is still related to your current field. But if you’ve worked other jobs since then, especially jobs where you’ve grown and learned–it’s a good idea to update your references. No, you don’t have to forget about your older allies entirely, they can be in the back pocket in case someone else doesn’t reply timely.
I hope this blog post has given you somethings to think about! Don’t forget about the impact of good references!
About the writer: Winifred LaFrance Chambers is a recruiter and human resources consultant for Career Image Solutions. She has a background in business administration and creative writing.