Being asked for your list of your references is a good thing; it usually signals that you are moving forward in the interview process. It is incumbent upon you the job seeker to ensure you manage your references effectively and improve your candidacy for the job. Keep these five keys in mind when preparing your reference list:
- Know whom to ask
When considering whom to ask to serve as a reference, consider your most recent manager, executive, or colleague. Also consider previous managers, peers, direct reports, and customers. The key is to select your references based first on their influence then secondly on their ability to knowledgeably speak about your accomplishments, strengths, and skills. Stay away from family, friends, or anyone else with a perceived bias. How many references to include? 3 to 5 references are the norm.
- Know when to communicate with them
After you have made an initial list of potential references, call each one to make sure they are willing to serve in this capacity. Do this well before you start to interview to make sure there are no surprises. After you begin to interview, be sure to keep your references informed of your progress, making them aware of the companies that you are speaking with. When a request for your references is made, contact your references right away so that they know to expect a call.
- Know how to prepare them for a call
Having a copy of your resume is the basic minimum that your references will need. In addition to your resume, be sure that each of your references knows the name of the company that is considering you for hire, the name of the person that may be contacting them, the title of the position you are interviewing for, the basic job description, why you feel you are a good fit for the position, and what information you would like your reference to share when contacted. In addition, you can offer them a list of questions (and the answers) that they may be asked. Sample questions include:
- How do you know the applicant?
- What is your knowledge of the applicant’s abilities?
- What are the applicant’s strengths? Weaknesses?
- Why did the applicant leave their previous company?
- Know how to extend their influence
Be sure to connect with each reference on LinkedIn and have them write you a glowing recommendation. Believe it or not, employers read these recommendations and if they see a public recommendation from one of your references, it can help further extend their influence.
- Know how to structure your list
Your reference list should be formatted with your contacted information at the top (like your resume). Include the heading “References” and then for each reference, provide the following:
- Contact Number
- Email Address
- Relationship to you (how do you know them?)
Finally, be sure to send a thank you letter to your references after they have been contacted. This represents sound business etiquette.