This Trick Will Get You the Best Reference
Job Search

This Trick Will Get You the Best Reference

by Val Matta
Photos Devron Enarson | October 16, 2015

REFERENCES ARE AN IMPORTANT PART OF ANY CAREER TRANSITION, AND HOW YOU NETWORK PLAYS AN ESSENTIAL ROLE IN ENSURING THEY'RE TOP NOTCH. 

Your resume is up-to-date. Your cover letter is perfectly crafted. You’re poised and prepared for any interview question. But there is something missing from your job search toolbox - your references.

References can be extremely influential in the application process. As reported by a CareerBuilder survey, 56 percent of employers have caught a lie on an applicant’s resume. Now more than ever, companies are relying on honest references to back up potential employees’ skills.

Here’s are some tips for the best way to ask for (and receive) a good reference:

WHEN TO RECONNECT WITH A REFERENCE: YESTERDAY

There's nothing worse than being unprepared to give a reference. Being called out of the blue to speak about all your fabulous qualities may mean your reference might forget to touch on certain aspects of your work ethic or be left tongue-tied.

As soon as you decide to start looking for jobs, let the person you’re using as a reference know - especially considering you never know at what point in the hiring process a company will call them. The sooner you keep them in the loop, the better.

HOW TO REACH OUT: PHONE OR EMAIL

Should I call a reference or just send an email? It might seem sufficient to send out a mass email to everyone you’d like to use as a reference, but in the long run, sending a mass email might hurt you.

Calling the person you want to be your potential reference is much more personalized and thoughtful. {Click to Tweet} Additionally, hearing the tone of their response will help you determine if they really will be a good reference. If they sound excited or honored that you asked them, definitely list them. However, if they just give you a short reply, that’s probably how they’ll respond to the hiring manager, ultimately preventing them from getting an in-depth look at who you are and your work style.

Whether they’re contacted or not, whether you get the job or not, be sure to thank your references. Let them know how things turned out and thank them for their time. 

WHO TO PICK: AS MANY AS POSSIBLE

Most people tend to keep a short list of three to five references, but try to have more of a pool than a list. Just like you would customize your resume for each company and job, you should also change up the references you list.

Doing this keeps your references from getting overwhelmed. If you’re applying for dozens and dozens of jobs, it’s a bit unfair to expect the same three people to field all those calls.

Additionally, different references can attest to different skills. If the job listing calls for a team player, it would be a good idea to list your supervisor from a former team project. However, if the company is looking for a self-starter, the boss who responded favorably to your ideas and new proposals would be a better reference.

WHY YOU SHOULD KEEP THEM IN THE LOOP

After someone agrees to be your reference, don’t just leave them out in the cold. If possible, meet up with them in person and discuss the position for which you’re applying. Let them know what skills you’d like them to highlight, and if you’ve already been through an interview, let them know the kinds of questions they asked you.

Catch them up on what you’ve been doing and swap old work stories. It’ll remind your reference of what it was like to work with you and all your shining attributes. When the phone does ring, they’ll already know what they’re going to say.

WHAT TO DO AFTERWARDS: THANK THEM

Whether they’re contacted or not, whether you get the job or not, be sure to thank your references. Let them know how things turned out and thank them for their time. It’ll show them how much you appreciate their support and help ensure that the next time you need someone to speak on your behalf they’ll be there.

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What other things do you take into consideration when asking for a professional reference? Comment below!