In the “old days” of job search reference letters were submitted with the resume. Then we moved to a standard line at the bottom of the resume saying “references available upon request”. But things in the job market have changed and you no longer need to do either. In the current job market references are requested very late in the selection process. It has become almost an after thought once the finalist candidate is selected.
This does not mean however that job seekers should not take this this part of the selection process seriously. Here are some tips to make the most out of your references.
1. Assemble your references early in the search process. Do not leave this task until the last minute and find yourself scrambling.
2. Identify 3-4 references. These are people who have seen you in a work or volunteer situation and can speak to your professional skills. Resist the tempation of choosing people with big titles who may not be able to speak directly to your work. Personal references hold less weight these days. At lease one of these references should be a former supervisor or boss. The absence of one on the list is a red flag to a prospective employer.
3. Talk with your references ahead of time about what they are comfortable talking about. If you, as a job seeker are highlighting certain skills, make sure your references are reinforcing those qualities when talking to a prospective employer.
4. When a prospective employer indicates that they will be calling references, call your references to put them on alert. References also appreciate having a current copy of your resume and the job description of the job you are applying for so that their comments are relevant to the job you are applying for.
5. Be sure to keep your references apprised of your standing whether you get the job or not.
In job search, give yourself the best possible chance to compete by managing every detail in your search, including how to make the most of your references.