How much thought have you given to your choice of references? Reference checks are a crucial part of the job placement process and your list of references should enhance your resume and interview.
References should be people who can discuss your skills, work traits and qualifications for the job. If you’ve been asked for your list of references, that’s a good sign that the employer is seriously considering you for the position. Don’t blow it by having a less than stellar reference list.
When you’re thinking about who to include on your list, ask yourself these two questions:
1. Does this person know me well professionally?
Your relationship with this person is far more important that his or her name or job title. For example, if you’ve met and occasionally seen the marketing vice president of your company, but you’ve worked extensively on several projects with the division manager, the division manager is a better reference because s/he can really talk about your abilities and talents using specific examples.
Avoid using personal references whenever possible. Parents, neighbors and friends may know you well, but can they really discuss your work habits and skills in a convincing way? Stick with the people you know professionally. This doesn’t only mean the people you work with. It could also mean people you’ve served on committees with for non-profit organizations, community events, even political campaigns. Just make sure they’re people who can talk about your skills at work.
2. Will this person give me a favorable and positive recommendation?
Make sure the person you’re considering will be able to discuss your abilities in some detail and in a positive way. A negative reference is to be avoided if at all possible. Sometimes it’s essential for the hiring manager or recruiter to talk with your former employer, regardless of the relationship. In this case, make sure you have other people on your reference list who can speak highly of you and your accomplishments to balance the possible negative feedback from a less than perfect relationship with a boss.
Of course, you’ll ask permission of anyone you’re considering for your reference list. Have at least 4 or 5 people to ask. Usually they’ll say “yes” if you’ve chosen wisely. Help them help you by explaining your career plans and the types of positions you’re interested in. Give any references a copy of your resume to help them see your experience in a larger context.
Don’t include your reference list with resumes you may distribute, but take it to any interviews you go on. List references on a separate sheet from your resume and include the following information about each of them:
Contact your references when an interviewer asks for your references. Tell them who is likely to call, the company name and the position you’ve interviewed for. It’s a courtesy to keep your references informed about your job search progress. Tell them when you accept a position and thank them for their help. Once you have a new job, stay in touch with your references. You may need to call on them again.
Since 1994, Jan has been a career advisor, helping individuals and groups with career decisions and job search techniques. Her practical approach helps client find the jobs they want and then offers techniques to find them. She also teaches courses on entrepreneurship, small business marketing, career decision-making and networking, among others. Her practice is nationwide. You can contact Jan at: Cannon Career Development, Inc. via their toll free number: 888 550 4544. Please visit www.cannoncareercenter.com.