Occasionally, you may suspect someone isn’t coming through with the glowing remarks promised when they agreed to serve as your professional reference. The time you might consider this an issue is if you complete interviews with flying colors, perhaps even having a job offer in hand, to suddenly find it is rescinded, possibly with no explanation other than “It wasn’t a good fit.”
With references that are requested earlier in the application process, problems are more difficult to discern because there are many other elements that could cause a late turn-around.
If you are concerned, there are two approaches you can take to figure out if the problem is indeed a lackluster reference.
First, ask the person directly if they are comfortable being a reference for you. Offer them an opportunity to exit gracefully by asking if this is a good time for them to be serving as a reference. They may have too much on their plate. If they simply find they are too busy or don’t feel comfortable acting as a reference, be sincere in your thanks for their efforts. Keep them on your Christmas list, just not your reference list. Replace them with someone more available.
If they are still willing, they may simply need a bit more information to be able to speak eloquently. Offer to help them with whatever they need. Discuss projects you worked on, achievements you made at the company, promotions you received, anything that gives them talking points.
When you need a reference check
Another situation happens less often with references you have chosen than with former employers. Perhaps you didn’t leave a position on the best of terms. Perhaps there was a “personality conflict.” Whatever it was, if it looks like it’s haunting your job search, contact a reputation expert who will check your references and report to you what is being said.
Allison Taylor is a reputable online source for this service. They offer a variety of services including a reference check ($79) and a cease-and-desist letter to an employer who gave you a bad reference ($395).
When you have compiled all of your reference data, you’re ready to format the information.
Submit references on a separate sheet of paper, and only when requested by a prospective employer. Don’t provide references on your resume.
Also, don’t add the line, “References supplied upon request” to your resume. This is an outdated technique. Employers now (and maybe always did) assume you will provide references when they ask for them.
Use the same heading and format on the reference sheet as on your resume and cover letter, including your name and contact information.
If your references aren’t working out like you’d hoped, contact me. We’ll get them on track and straighten out any other job search wobbles you’re experiencing.
Photo credit: Nemo