Choosing Strong Employment References

July 8th, 2013 | Articles, Job Search | No Comments »

strong references

Employment references can make or break your chances of getting a job. So it is important to take this part of the hiring process seriously. Too many job seekers ignore preparing their references altogether, instead relying on the gathering of phone numbers from anyone who knows their name. Others put serious thought into the references they choose but forget that there is a certain etiquette to follow when supplying someone’s contact information.

Follow these tips to maximize the effect of your references while minding your manners.

Choose your references wisely

Your references should be relevant to the job in which you are applying for. That is, of course, unless you don’t have a choice. Choosing the former manager of the grocery store you worked at a few years back – no matter how close you have remained with him or her – is not a strong reference for a position as a software engineer. A reference should not only be able to attest to your skills, but should also be able to tell the hiring manager why you would be a great fit for the position you are applying for. Unless this is your first job in a particular field, avoid references from different industries.

Give your references a heads up

The last thing you want is an unprepared reference interacting with a hiring manager. You should ask permission of former supervisors and coworkers before you dish out their contact information. Make sure they feel comfortable about talking to someone about you in the first place. Some people, no matter how close they are to you, may not feel comfortable with this responsibility.

Not telling someone at all is an even worse mistake. No one wants to be ambushed by a phone call they never saw coming.

Prepare your references

Make sure to supply your references with plenty of information about the job you are applying for. This way they will be prepared to inform the hiring manager how good of a fit you will be for the position. Knowing more about your career goals and the company and position you are applying for will make them a significantly stronger reference.

Don’t give out personal numbers

Most people like to keep their work and personal lives separate. Cellphones are generally reserved for personal use (unless they keep a work specific cellphone) so people may not want you to give out their number. It is important to discuss this with your reference beforehand. They may not want random people calling their cell phone out of the blue.

Stay in touch with potential references

It is important to network and stay in touch with former associates. This way you are not contacting someone after more than a year of radio silence and expecting them to be a reference for you. Your strongest references will be people who have a vested interest in your personal and professional success. They will be the people whom you have made the effort to stay in contact with.

Avoid alerting your current boss

If you are looking for a new opportunity but don’t want to alert your current boss to your job search then you should avoid using him or her as a reference. Nothing will ensure an awkward conversation at work faster than an unexpected call from another employer inquiring about potentially hiring you. A quick mention of this to the potential employer will squash any suspicion about not including your current boss as a reference.

Bring your references to all your interviews

Not literally, but you should bring a hard copy of your contacts list to all of your job interviews. It’s best to avoid the “references available upon request” cliché on your resume. Employers know that you will have them should they ask, and it’s not like you are going to say no. Having them handy will show initiative and solid confidence in the contacts you have provided.

What if you don’t have anyone to ask?

So this is your first job out of college and you don’t have a former boss or associate to help you. Rather than gathering up three or more of your friends and family members try looking for ex-professors, club presidents, or anyone associated with community service or volunteer work you are/were involved in.

By Kevin Withers

Image courtesy of Official US Navy Imagery