Most people know what professional references are. However, as someone who checks employee references daily, I have noticed that many job seekers struggle with using references to their best advantage. Given that references are a key part of the hiring process, here are 4 crucial tips to ensure your references are pushing you forward in your job search and not holding you back.
1. Ask the Right People: When trying to figure out the best professional references, many include friends or close co-workers. While friends and colleagues can provide insight into your work style and accomplishments, most employers want feedback from previous or current supervisors. However, there is always the situation of a secret job search. In that case, you don’t want to ask your supervisor to be a reference because you don’t want them to know that you are looking. Instead, try an indirect supervisor or client who can speak to your achievements and your working relationship.
In either case, be sure to ask your biggest supporters to be references. Think back on any previous feedback you may have received from them. Was it constructive and positive or fairly neutral? What will they say about your work ethic and level of expertise? If you aren’t 100% sure that they are highly enthusiastic about you and your work, pick someone else who is.
2. Doublecheck Contact Information: It can be easy to forget to update references if it’s been awhile since your last job search. Be sure your references’ contact information is up-to-date and includes a current phone number and email address. Outdated reference information not only makes reference checks difficult (if not impossible), but it makes you look disorganized.
3. Share Relationship Details: When sharing your list of professional references with a potential employer, don’t skimp on the details. Sharing information such as where you worked together and for how long, their relationship to you, and their title is extremely helpful. It gives the employer more context and enables them to tailor their questions ahead of time.
4. Give Your References a Heads-up: If you are far enough in the interview process to give references, don’t forget to let your references know that someone may be reaching out. That way, they don’t miss the email or call and they can prepare in advance. This simple step can speed up the hiring process and help your references share better feedback.
In the middle of proofing your resume and preparing for interviews, don’t forget to spend serious time on your references. The right professional references can give you a leg up on your competition and help you get that job!