One of the most important parts of finding the perfect job should actually begin before your search. Compiling a list of relevant people who can speak to a potential employer about your skills, abilities, personality and accomplishments is priority one! Once you have complied your list, ensuring that your references are prepared and understand the requirements of your new job will go a long way in securing future employment. Most employers will contact a minimum of three references during their decision making process. I would suggest that you have more than three available, people have busy lives and are not always available. You don’t want to risk losing a chance at a great job opportunity because a potential employer was unable to reach your provided references. Having additional references available will also allow you to pick and choose who you want to provide based on the position you are interviewing for and what skills are required.
I have compiled some important information on how to choose a reference, how to ask for a reference properly, what information to provide your reference and other important factors.
Step 1 – Deciding who to ask for an interview
- This person should be a previous supervisor or manager; someone who has evaluated previous work
- For sales people, this could be a customer
- For recent graduates, you could include a professor or academic advisor
- For someone with very little experience, a supervisor for volunteer activities would do.
- You should include people who can speak to different skills and abilities. For example, your most recent employer may have information on your leadership abilities, while another previous supervisor could have information about your ability to meet short deadlines. A customer may be able to provide information about how the sales process utilized worked for them. Different people will have different things to say.
Step 2 – How to ask for the reference
- The most important part of this step is to ensure that the individual has a way to decline if they choose.
- Asking for a reference by phone or email would be preferred, email allows them time to determine if they are the right person to provide that reference. It also avoids putting someone on the spot.
- Ask the individual if they are comfortable in providing a positive referral regarding the work that you completed for them.
- Explain why you chose them to be a referral.
- Thank them for their time
Step 3 – Materials that should be provided
- Provide your potential reference with your resume, past performance reviews (provided they were completed by that person), copy of the job description when you worked for them and share your LinkedIn profile.
- Remind them of certain accomplishments or large projects that you worked on.
- Ask for specific skills to be addressed, such as leadership, budget management, time management etc.
- If possible, provide them with the job summary for the position that you have interviewed for.
- Ask your references what they will say about you.
- Contact your reference each time you provide their contact information to a potential employer.
- Confirm contact information including email address when possible.
- Thank them for taking the time to help you out.
- Let them know if you received a job offer.
- Provide someone who has not been asked, you will not know what information is provided to the potential employer.
- Ask someone who has not worked directly with you in over 10 years. Chances are they are not going to remember much.
- Ask co-workers or friends.
- Provide the name of someone who is not able to answer the phone call. Make sure that they are available.
Cultivating good relationships with your references is important. Keeping them in the loop about the job search is important, but respect their time. These are people who have jobs, commitments and deadlines to meet.