Many jobseekers think about their references only when they are in the offer stage. But the proactive jobseeker uses references as a marketing tool. The right references can push an average finalist to frontrunner. Furthermore, even the content employee should be proactive and have ready a list of references for three purposes: 1) in this ever-changing market you might unexpectedly become a jobseeker; 2) you can use references as testimonials to argue for that bonus or promotion, not just a new job; and 3) what your references say and your ability to compile good references serve as an audit for yourself of your career to date. If you don’t have a ready list of references, it is a signal to more closely manage your career.
Some tips as you compile your reference list:
Confirm that your references want to give you a reference. Call them and ask what they would say. Coach them if you want them to talk about something specific– e.g., analytical skills or management potential. If they haven’t worked with you for awhile, remind them exactly what you worked on. Don’t be afraid to show them the job description for what you applied for and tell them which projects/ accomplishments would match.
Confirm the name, title and contact info of your references. Find out how they wish to be contacted and give them advance notice about who will be calling and when.
Have references at the peer level and the direct report level. Most people only list supervisors or people who have managed their work. Yes, you will need those references. However, the more experienced the candidate, the more likely that a reference check will encompass various reporting levels. Peers can tell an employer how a candidate was perceived by colleagues and how effective a team player the candidate was. Direct reports give insight into a candidate’s management style. References at different levels give an employer a more comprehensive view of the candidate.
Given all of these considerations, references are not just an afterthought in a search. Start compiling your reference list today.
Caroline Ceniza-Levine helps people find fulfilling jobs and careers, as the co-founder of SixFigureStart®, career coaching by former Fortune 500 recruiters. As a former executive search and corporate recruiter for over 10 years, Caroline has hired thousands of people for leading companies in financial services, consulting, media, pharmaceutical/ healthcare, and technology. She is also the co-author (along with Donald Trump, Jack Canfield and others) of the best-selling “How the Fierce Handle Fear: Secrets to Succeeding in Challenging Times” 2010;
Two Harbors Press.