Getting Great References

This week I read a great piece by Susan Adams on How To Get The Best References for a potential job, and realized that for many job seekers, this part of of the hiring process is often an afterthought. Something they pull together at the last minute when it’s requested, and really it is one of the most vital pieces of information that an Employer has in making their final decision. I think for many there is a complacency that has set in knowing that most Employers will not disclose much information under reference check immunity laws (more to come on this topic later), but the truth is that past bosses or co-workers are never shy about sharing positive information and recommending people that they feel are rockstars. And in this economy this last push is just what might get you the job.

So what’s the key to having great references?

  1. Build your list ahead of time – Have a list of references prepared before you start your next job search, and be sure that you not only have asked permission from each person to include them on the list, but that their contact information is correct. Also try to include any pertinent information on contacting your references, such as preferred contact method (email/cell), and the best time to call them…they have lives too.

  2. “Offer 360-degree” references – As Susan Adams points out in her piece, “this means including a superior, a colleague and someone who reported to you. That way the hiring manager can get a sense of your strengths from multiple perspectives.”This is especially relevant if you are looking to take a job where you will be managing others.

  3. Your references should be recent (& relevant) – Very often potential Employers will want to contact someone from your last three jobs. Better to already have them listed, and anyone else who can offer insight into your skills and performance as it relates to the job you want. And while you would “think” that it would go without saying…do NOT list your current boss as a reference, UNLESS you are changing jobs for a very specific Company is shutting down/layoffs or you are relocating to another state.

  4. Be upfront & honest – Have a recent job that didn’t quite work out??? Any good Hiring Manager will notice when there are no references from a recent job. Rather than hemming and hawing about it, explain the reasons of why the position did not work (without bad mouthing the company or manager) and what you learned as a result. Turn it into a positive!

  5. Make references available on request only – While resume’s are being submitted at dizzying pace online, references should NEVER be sent as part of your application. Here at Hourly we offer members the ability to list references in their LockBox, only to be released on request, and think this same attitude should be used everywhere. These lists often include private information such as phone numbers and emails, and should be respectfully guarded.

  6. Follow-up with your references – You should not only let your references know when you are looking to give them the heads up, but you should let them know when you have accepted a job. These individuals are your champions and should be treated with respect, lest you need them again. Take the time to write them a thank you note, or do something nice to show your appreciation. Demonstrate that they were right to sing your praises.


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