Reference Tips

If I asked you for three references that you’ll use in your job search, could you list them easily? Would those references speak highly of you? Would they be personal references or business? Supervisors or peers?

Many job seekers don’t spend a lot of time thinking about whom they should use as a reference for a particular job. But you should think about it – a lot. Calling references is often the last stage in the hiring process, and a bad or luke-warm reference can spoil everything that’s gone before.

Here’s a list of Reference Tips to help you start that thinking process..

  • Get permission to use someone as a reference.
  • Ask him if there is any aspect of your work experience that he would not be able to speak positively about. If he can’t be entirely positive, don’t use him.
  • Sometimes a reference won’t admit to you that she cannot sing your praises. Make sure you look for enthusiastic agreement to serve as a reference.
  • Occasionally a possible reference may hold a grudge against you or be jealous of your career success. Think carefully about whom you choose as a reference so you can avoid these attitudes.
  • List your references on a separate sheet of paper, not as part of your resume.
  • Do not hand out your list of references unless asked.. Most prospective employers will not call your references unless they are really serious about hiring you, but try not to hand out your reference sheet unless required for the last hiring stage.
  • Keep in touch with your references -- and not just when you need them! Once or twice a year send them an email or call them just to see how they’re doing. You can put in a plug for yourself at the same time: “The job is going great. We’ve increased our run rate by 15% just in the last few months.”
  • Send your references a copy of your resume whenever it changes.
  • To create your reference list, write down all the people you know who can vouch for your abilities. You won’t use all of these people for any one job – you’ll tailor your references to each specific job you apply for. This is your “long list.”
  • Divide the long list up into categories such as supervisors, peers, direct reports, vendors, clients, fellow volunteers, people in the same professional organizations.
  • Also divide the list up into areas that theses references can talk about. And be prepared to list this underneath the reference’s contact information on your list. “John can vouch for my ability to handle volatile customer relations situations.”
  • List at least one former boss, and if possible, list all of them on your long list. Most employers are mainly interested in what your supervisor has to say. If you leave off your last boss, or one who would be able to speak to the job you’re applying for, be sure to have a well-thought-out answer as to why you’ve left him or her off.
  • Out of courtesy, be sure to let your references know that they may be getting a call. This also provides a good opportunity to suggest what they might highlight about your abilities and it allows you to update any phone number or email changes so that the prospective employer gets all the right information . How embarrassing if you give out a reference’s name and phone number and the number has changed!Speaking of changes, be sure to let your references know if you’ve had a name change. If you’ve been diligent about sending out your resume when there are changes, you won’t need to worry about this.