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Referencing 101

Posted by Alan J. McMillan on Wed, Jul 02, 2014 @ 11:20 AM

At some juncture in the interview process you will need to provide references.  By this time things are getting serious.  Generally you are not asked to submit references until the employer is near the hiring decision and you have made it through most of the gauntlet.

The last thing you want to do is to submit names without notifying those contacts that you are using them as a reference.  If you don’t, they are about to be ambushed by someone contacting them.  Can you say awkward?  They don’t know what the role is, how you might or might not be good at it, or even your level of desire for the role.

The other thing you do not want to do is ask someone to serve as a reference who does not really know you or who doesn’t know of your accomplishments.  You want references that are notable and ones who have witnessed you doing note-worthy things.

For those reading this that are not in the interviewing process yet, you should be building those kinds of references now. 

Hopefully you are contacting them in advance, giving them an update as to where you are in your search, why you are interested in this role and maybe seek advice as to their opinion of the opportunity.  If they are qualified to be a reference, they know enough about you, your abilities and experiences that they can lend counsel to you regarding the ‘fit’ of this opportunity.

Here is a list of To-Do’s:

  • Submit references when you are asked.  Do not provide them by your own initiative with your resume.

  • It is best to have 3-5 who would serve as great and credible references. Family and friends are not credible, rather submit people that you have worked closely with which could include:

            • Supervisors

            • Teammates

            • Professors

            • Faculty advisors or student leaders in campus associations and groups

            • Community leaders who you have had contact with

  • Submit your stongest reference first on the list

  • When asked to submit a list of references, you should include their:

    • Contact information

      • Job title
      • Business address (where they are based)
      • Emai
      • Phone
    • How you know them

    • A project or accomplishments that you worked on together

  • You should check with someone in advance if you intend to use them as a reference. 

  • Let them know about the role you are seeking and try to position yourself in their eyes as being exceptional for that opportunity.

  • Ask them if it would be OK to use them as a reference, and be sensitive to their time.  If they are buried with other priorities, let them go.  They just might be signaling that they are not keen to reference you.  That is better than a bad or shaky reference.

  • Send them a copy of your resume, a point or two of what you did with them or within their organization (to keep how your are positioning things on the top of their minds) and a summary of the job you are going after.  This will make it easy for them to do a great job on your behalf.

  • Then, and only then, use them as a reference.

If you do this, you will get much better results.

IF… AND THIS IS IMPORTANT, it is a stretch to get great references, and you find yourself asking people that do not really know you or who have not witnessed greatness from you, you have another problem and you should work on solving that, as in, being great in the eyes of notable people.

Once someone agrees to become a reference for you, keep them in the loop as to how things are proceeding.  They might be or may not be contacted, but you don’t want your request for assistance to go into a black hole.  Keep them informed.

One last thing, when someone serves as a reference, you become closer to them in the process.  You engage in a dialog, before, during and after the reference-checking process.  With that, they naturally have a vested interest in your success and future and, they become a stronger contact in your personal network.

And don’t forget to both keep them informed about your search outcome and to say thank you.

Topics: Job Search, Job Preparation, Alan McMillan, Dream Jobs, Professional Network, Career Advantage