“Expand you reference, and you’ll immediately expand your life.”
- Tony Robbins, American Author
When you’re shortlisted as part of the pool of candidates for a particular job, it usually turns out that your qualifications are very similar to that of the other applicants. It is here that employers look for key differentiators that will give them a reason to hire you. Many times, it is the person who is the best cultural fit, personality fit or has the most ideal work history. The only way the hiring manager or employer can find out about these traits is by asking someone. This person should be someone you, the candidate, have worked with in the past. These people are known as references. Listing references, especially the right ones can be a tricky affair.
References are a crucial part of the job search and interview process. Some companies might provide formal references or recommendations for their employees. Others might avoid it completely due to legal reasons. Then we have personal references which is a whole other story. In this blog, we will have a look at the things you should keep in mind when listing references.
1. Finish Listing References Before Applying
Asking people to be your reference can be a time-consuming process. You need to work your way through the list of potential contacts. You also have to make sure that they are okay with being listed as a reference. This can take a lot of time. Hence, it is advisable to first get your ducks in a row, as it were before you start applying for a job. What if you find yourself halfway down the interview and recruitment process with zero references?
2. Choose Well When Listing References
It might make sense to list your previous supervisor as a reference, but there are no guarantees as to how they might speak about you. Rather take a moment to evaluate all the people who worked above you in previous companies. Determine who is likely to give you the fairest assessment. This will better your chances.
Having references that can communicate well will go a long way in improving your chances at a job.
3. Diversify When Listing References
Another way to boost your chances and keep things fresh in the recruitment process is to diversify your references. Have a list of people who can vouch for your different skill sets and qualifications. This way you can approach them separately for referencing you, depending on the job you’re applying for.
4. Look for Communication Skills When Listing References
You want references who can communicate their thoughts and are rather well-spoken. The same applies to their writing in case they have to reply by email. What you don’t want to have is a reference who has a habit of sending one-liner emails or gives unenthusiastic half-references when called up. It is also a good idea to list references who are prompt. This will serve as a good foundation for your reference list.
5. Always Ask for Consent Before Listing References
Touching back on our previous point, it is always important to make sure the person is willing to be a reference. You can’t just expect it, especially with company policies and the risk of lawsuits they might face. Give them the option to opt-out. This will save you a lot of issues down the line as well.
"The references you do not verify are the good ones."
- Charles Péguy, French Poet
6. Be Patient When Listing References
You might be in a hurry to land a job and desperate to get done with listing references. However, that shouldn’t be a reason to pester people to be your reference. Wait and see, people might take some time to get back to you. If they take too long, like around a week, then reach out to them again. If they still don’t get back to you, it might be best to let it go and keep searching for more prompt references.
7. Make It Easy for Your References
Part of getting someone to be your reference and to make the most of it is to make the process easy on them. Send them everything they need to give accurate and good information on you. Forward your resume or link to your LinkedIn profile. You could even consider sending them documents and certificates of your accomplishments. A highly useful tactic is to include the job description that you are applying for and what qualifications the new employer is looking for. Think of it as giving your references cue cards that tell them what to speak on or touch upon.
Give your references a heads up before every job interview. Just an email or phone call will do.
8. Reference Letters Should Be Considered
Do not be afraid to ask for a reference letter. This can be a great time-saver. It can be included in the job application itself and can eliminate the need for a phone call or email follow-up by the hiring manager.
9. Give Fair Warning When Listing References
Every time you’re listing references for a specific job application process, let those people know. Consider it a professional courtesy. Send out a quick email or call them to let them know that someone will be calling them to do a reference check on you. This is also a good time to let them know what job you are applying for, as well as the name of the hiring manager and company.
10. Follow-ups are Key
You must follow up with your references when you have some news or updates regarding the job. Let them know if you got the job or not, and thank them for the efforts that they put in. You should also offer them a reciprocal offer if they need a reference in the future. Think of it as building good faith and maintaining your professional relationships, which can come in handy down the line.