by Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC
Every job seeker knows
that when applying for a new job, great references are
almost as important as a stellar resume. It’s generally
the first thing a hiring manager will ask for in an
interview, so you’ll have to be prepared.
What’s the best way to
develop your references? Can you just write down a few
names and contact information of people who’ll say
you’re a good employee who won’t run off with the office
supplies? Not exactly.
Developing great, usable references does require some
work, but it’s not impossible! Here are a few tips to
help you create an all-star list of references.
1. Who Makes the Cut?
When compiling your
reference sheet, the first question you should ask
yourself is the most logical one: who’s on the list?
Your first instinct might be to choose someone in your
company with an executive job title or strong name
recognition to people outside of the organization. But,
the last thing you want is for a recruiter or hiring
manager to make a phone call to this higher-up and hear
a response like "Joe who?" For this reason, director
supervisors and others who have day-to-day knowledge of
your work performance make the best references.
2. Are They Competition?
While your references
should be someone you’ve worked closely with, they
shouldn’t be someone who could end up being your
competition. They need to have strong knowledge of your
work performance, but, for this competitive reason, they
should be in a different functional line of work.
3. Ask Permission
You’ve done your
investigative work and have your VIP list of strong,
knowledgeable references. But, do they want to be on
that list? Maybe not. It’s vital that you get the
permission of each and every one of your references
before handing their contact information to a recruiter
or hiring manager. Once they’ve accepted your request,
you’ll need to double check their contact information
and find out how they’d like to be contacted - via phone
or email. Make sure to also ask when they prefer to be
contacted, so they aren’t caught off guard when a
4. Find References’ References
Recruiters and hiring
managers know that anyone you reference is going to say
good things about you. Of course, right? You certainly
wouldn’t list a reference who would speak poorly of you.
This is why hiring professionals often ask most
references: "Who, other than you, has direct knowledge
of Joe’s work performance? Can you give me their number
So, be sure to ask each
of your references the same question "Who would you
recommend as a reference for me?" If they name someone
who might not give you a glowing report, take the
opportunity to steer them away and suggest an alternate
5. Get it in Writing
What’s even better than
email or phone references? Letters of recommendation.
Written references will save you the time and energy
that organizing phone references requires. Save yourself
even more time by saving every "pat on the back" you get
from your supervisor or colleagues throughout the years.
When it’s time to job search, these saved accolades will
6. Proper Presentation
References should only be
provided during the interview. Never include them in
your resume or send them in with job applications. When
you’re called in for an interview, however, it’s best to
have the prepared document to present to the hiring
7. Keep it Professional
Your references should be
strictly professional - choose colleagues or peers who
have direct knowledge of your work performance. The
"character reference" from an executive’s friend or
family member generally isn’t very helpful for the
hiring manager, so including one is unnecessary.
After you’ve landed your
new job, it’s always a great idea to send each reference
a thank you note to show that you appreciate their help
in getting you there.