Employment references are a key ingredient of a successful job search. Just as you would customize your resume and hone your interview skills, your employment references must be chosen with care. Here are 5 things you need to be aware of to insure your employment references will enhance your chances of getting an offer.
1. Choose appropriate references. Employers are most interested in speaking to people who directly managed you. In addition, co-workers, vendors and customers are also strong considerations. If you have managed people, a former subordinate may also serve as a reference. Providing a variety of references will give the employer a well rounded view of how you interfaced with different levels of individuals both internal to the organization and on the outside. In addition, make sure your references are not too far removed. Listing a chief executive from your last company may do you no good if the person can’t recall who you are.
2. Make sure your references are prepared. Once you know the company is interested in you, contact your references and let them know to expect a call. You don’t want your reference to be surprised; besides you will want to prepare them for the call. It is critical that you provide them a copy of the job description and coach them on what you would like them to highlight. For instance, if you played a major role in an advertising campaign that resulted in increased sales for a former employer, make sure your reference mentions that when speaking with the person conducting the reference.
3. Deal with any skeletons in your closet. Ok, maybe you missed a critical deadline on a project or perhaps you were terminated because of a personality conflict with your former boss. Be up front about it. Employers don’t like surprises. Taking ownership for your actions shows you are willing to learn from your mistakes. Tell the employer what happened, what you learned from the experience and what you would do differently in the future. No one is expected to be perfect. And honesty goes a long way.
4. Don’t be put off by the company’s reference policy. Most companies have strict policies about giving out references for fear of litigation. HR departments grill their managers to refer all calls to them so that they can mitigate any risk. HR will typically verify dates of employment and job title only. However, assuming you have a good working relationship with your former boss and co-workers who could be potential references for you, reach out to them ahead of time to see if they would be willing to be references. In most cases they will want to support you even if what they say will be ‘off the record’.
5. Nurture your network. Staying in touch with your network is critical, not just when you are in a job search. Reach out to your network periodically and let them know what you are up to. That way when you ask for assistance with a reference you aren’t coming out of left field.
Establishing good relationships with your references can mean the difference between getting a job offer and wondering why you were not selected. Choose them carefully and make sure they are up to speed on the new role you will be asked to fulfill. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.