Setting yourself apart from the competition means preparing yourself and your references. Since some employers request references from every applicant, you will need to have your references ready early in your job search.
The best time to gather information about your references is while you or your resume writer is working on your resume. Read a step-by-step process for choosing the best references here.
Making the contact
Email each reference you have chosen for an application and ask for a convenient time to have a 15-minute phone conversation. Call precisely at the scheduled time.
Ask permission to list this person as a reference. Describe briefly the position you are applying for. Remind your reference of the work you did together that pertains to the position for which you are applying. Ask them if they feel confident about speaking positively of your work and the experience of working with you. Let them know you will email them the job posting with your resume before you submit their name as a resume.
You may also ask them to speak specifically about a facet of your work, skill, or performance. For example, you may have two references who worked at the same company with you. One was a manager who can speak directly to your progress as an employee, your initiative, and your performance reviews. Another was a colleague who can speak to your collaborative efforts, your demeanor, and creativity. Rather than have them speak about the same information, you may ask them to talk about those areas they know best, if given the chance.
Some companies have a policy against giving references, but usually it is an HR policy rather than a manager policy. Speak directly to the person you want to do the talking rather than someone in HR who represents the company at large.
Verify contact information
Make sure you have current contact information for each reference. This is the information you need to verify and then provide about each reference:
- Their Employer’s Name (or “Retired”)
- Employer Mailing Address (home address if retired)
- Office Phone Number
- Office Email
- Type and Length of Relationship to You (For example, immediate supervisor, 3 years)
- The specific areas this reference is prepared to speak to. For example, “As Operations Director, Ms. Smith can speak to my achievements in IT Management during the 3 years we worked together. She also has specific knowledge of my planning, troubleshooting, and problem solving abilities in relation to a Data Center consolidation and relocation.”
Call or email each reference EVERY time you submit their name to an employer. Let them know the company you are applying to and the position you are applying for. Answer any questions they may have regarding your qualifications for the position.
When you land your job, send a thank you to each reference who has helped you along the way. If appropriate, offer to return the favor the next time they are job hunting. Keep them in your networking file and stay in touch.
If you have specific questions about choosing and preparing your professional references, please write them in the comment area below. If your questions are confidential, you may contact me here. I answer each email personally.