When searching for a new job, there are two things job seekers already know: to update their resume and brush up on interviewing skills. Perfecting these two things may place you in the running, but what most people overlook is the importance of a good job references; something that could be the deciding factor when an employer narrows down the field of candidates.
So what is it hiring managers are looking for in a reference? Top categories include:
1) A description of past job duties and experience
2) A view into the applicant’s strengths and weaknesses
3) Confirmation of job titles and dates of employment
To distinguish yourself from the competition, job seekers should assemble a solid list of contacts who can persuasively communicate their qualifications and professional attributes. Below are some tips:
Be deliberate in Your Choices
Your list should include people you know who can comfortably discuss your abilities and experience that directly relate to a position you’re applying for. Offer a mix of contacts who can address various aspects of your background. For example a former peer may speak to your interpersonal skills, while a past direct report can talk about your management style.
Ask Permission + Provide Context
Always contact potential references fist to gain their permission and gauge their eagerness to speak with hiring managers. There’s nothing worse than being blindsided by a call from a hiring manager asking about your work ethic and style. Be sure to provide a copy of your resume, the job description and contact information of the person who will likely be calling.
Provide the employer with clear contact information for your references including names, titles, phone numbers and email addresses. Including a brief background synopsis regarding your relationship with each individual is also helpful. Consider supplying more references than requested to stand out from the crowd and to avoid missing out on the job if a manager isn’t able to get in touch with one of your contacts.
Even if they aren’t contacted by employers, express your gratitude to people who agree to serve as references. Keep them updated on the progress of your job search and offer to return the favor of providing a recommendation, should they ever need one.