Having stellar references and knowing how to use them, will give you an edge in a highly competitive job market where employers have access to a large pool of qualified candidates. Yet, many job seekers are not using their references to their best advantage.
Here are some tips I would like to share with you: I call my tips: The three C’s:
Compile, Communicate, and be Courteous.
(1) Compile a list of references, who, you believe, would speak highly of you. Consider:
- Supervisors in former jobs
- Subordinates in former jobs
- Colleagues in former jobs
- Vendors and clients you interfaced with
- Members of volunteer or professional associations
Let the references know the types of positions you are applying for and ask for their permission to serve as your reference and share their contact information. Inquire for the best and quickest way to reach them. Your list will include:
- Telephone number (If possible, get 2 phone numbers)
- Email address
- Fax Number
When should you request references? (1) While still employed. For example, if a client praises you for your services, ask them if they would be willing to serve as a reference. (2) Professors – approach them once you have taken their classes, when you are still fresh in their minds. (3) Before you leave your current position approach your supervisor, colleagues and whomever else you choose and ask for a letter of reference as well. The sooner, the better.
Communicate – When asked to provide a list of references on a job application, select the references that would be most relevant to the position you are seeking. Following a job interview, interested interviewers would most likely contact your references. It is therefore, essential that you communicate and alert them: Email your resume and job description and discuss the position, preferably by phone. Make sure that the references have a clear understanding of what makes you a unique and a great fit for the position, and the circumstances of your separation from your former jobs. Bear in mind that your ability to perform the job is only part of the equation. Address your oral and written communication skills, teamwork, leadership, willingness to learn, and solid work ethics. These are all critical elements in the selection process.
Courtesy – This tip is the shortest one but truly essential: Always, always, thank your references, keep them posted on the outcomes, and offer to help them too.
I will be remiss if I do not include another form of references that recruiters and employers have access to, namely, your online Recommendations, on LinkedIn. When approaching your contacts (the more, the merrier) let them know what qualifications would be helpful to highlight, so as to build a well-rounded collection of recommendations.