With all of the available information about you on-line, it is more important than ever to cultivate, and manage your “real” references. Sure, you can generate recommendations on LinkedIn, BeKnown, etc., but nothing can help or hurt your closing ability more than a live person speaking to a prospective employer about your skills, capabilities, potential, and character. Unfortunately, job seekers often leave the necessary work involved in providing references until the end of the job search, or “the offer stage” which can cause mistakes in the process, and provide ineffective references. The development of references starts with the following:
- Select 4 to 6 people who can speak well about your professional talents, character, work ethic, leadership skills, etc. Choose people senior to you, your current and former manager, peers, external consultants, and employees which you have managed. They should be committed to your success, eager to help you and they should know your work well.
- The question put forth to these individuals should not be “Will you be a reference for me?”, but “Will you be a strong reference for me?” You need advocates, not people who are lukewarm about your capabilities. Ask for permission. Do not list people as references if you have not asked and prepared them. Also know that just because you selected and asked a reference to support you, you may not choose to use them on some jobs, or at all.
- To do a good job as references, people need to be prepared. They must have a copy of your resume and be familiar with the contents. Prepare long before you actually need a reference to speak to anyone.
- When asked to provide references select the best, and most appropriate three from your prepared references. Provide name, title, relationship, email address, and the phone number where they can most easily be reached.
- Once you have given an interviewer your references, alert your reference to the job you are applying for and why is it such a great match. Provide a posting if possible. Explain any concerns the employer may have so that they can help overcome those objections. Provide the name, title, email address and phone number for the person who may be calling.
- If you’re employed, do not release references too early in the job search process. If you don’t have an offer for the new job, be honest and let the hiring manager know that your employer does not know you are looking.
- Let the hiring manager know you have other references that are available, and that you’d be happy to provide those after an offer is made.
The key piece of this process is to stay in close contact with your references as they help you take job search activity to a successful ending.