Over the past few weeks I was reminded about the importance of references in job search. I had a client who was on the fence with a prospective employer and the decision to hire him came down to his references. He starts his new job in 2 weeks.
Selecting your References
Have a cross representation of who is on your reference list. Between three and five references is a good number. All references should be professional references, meaning they have seen you in a work capacity. There should definately be a boss, manager or supervisor. The absence of one could be a red flag to a new employer. There could also be a co-worker, a customer or a person who maybe reported to you. Don’t overlook people you have volunteered with on a project, they could be a great reference. Choose people who know you well, have seen you work and are articulate.
Preparing your list
You will want to create a reference list early in your job search because it may take time to contact people and get their information. On your reference list include the persons name, title, phone number and email address. I often suggest also adding a sentence indicating your relationship to that person.
Coaching your references
When you contact your references to ask if they are willing to be on the list, give them some ideas about the things in your past you are highlighting in your job search. When a prospective employer says they will be calling your references, contact your references immediately to let them know to be expecting a call and also send them a copy of the job description so that they can speak to things about you relevant to the job.
Times have changed. You no longer need to indicate on your resume “references available upon request”, it is a given. No need to provide references until they are requested. Now a days, references are checked very late in the process, often as a last step after the interviews. Don’t underestimate their significance. Internal recruiters are highly trained to ask just the right questions of references to determine the kind of worker you will be.