Having a professional resume, responding well to interview questions, getting wise career advice — these are just a few of the factors that job candidates need to advance in the job search process. You also need a foolproof method for identifying great job references that will help highlight your strengths to prospective employers.
Don’t get grouped with the 20 percent of candidates potential employers toss to the side due to questionable references. (Source: Higher Bracket) With a strategic approach, references can work to your advantage.
Best Practices for Job References
If you’re among the people seeking employment who believe references don’t matter, think again. According to LinkedIn author, J.T. O’Donnell, “hiring managers are checking references…because they just don’t trust all the digital personal branding and subjectivity that goes into it.”
Use these guidelines to vet references before you walk into an interview:
- Choose references with care. Select the key skills and qualities you want to highlight and then identify recent and relevant references who can vouch for them. Choose managers and senior leaders in the organizations you have worked with. Then, round out your references with internal and external stakeholders including team leads and clients.
- Left your last job on a bad note? If you have previous workplace relationships that ended poorly, do what you can to mend fences with these individuals. It’s likely that prospective employers may still want to speak to your previous manager. But keep in mind that you can counteract a negative situation like this by offering as many high-quality references as possible.
- Get permission. Contact each of your references requesting their agreement to provide a reference for the work you performed. Discuss the type of role you are targeting and how that is a progression from your previous experience. Then, offer to provide them with a copy of your resume which highlights your skills and accomplishments.
- Maximize the impact your references can make. Be proactive. Let your references know when a potential employer has asked for your references. Call them to discuss the position you have been interviewing for and the key qualifications required for the role. Then, sum it up by reminding them of how the opportunity aligns with your experience and accomplishments.
- Be selective. When asked, “Do you have any references?” instead of handing over a list, indicate you will provide these once you are back in your office. Once the interview has ended, take a moment to first decide if the role is a good fit for you. Are you truly interested in working for that organization and with that boss? If you are confident you are interested in the position, contact your references to give them a heads-up they should be expecting a reference call, and then provide the prospective employer with your reference list.
- Thank your references. Keep references updated on your progress and thank them for taking the time to support your career advancement. Managing these relationships is just as important to your job search success as having an accomplishment-based resume and sharp interviewing skills.
In today’s competitive job market, it’s important to take a strategic approach to the job search process. Create an impactful resume, master your answers to interview questions, and take the time to create a storehouse of references who will not only validate but sell your skills.
Author: Joanne Loberg of JL Careers Inc. is a Certified Executive Coach and Internationally Certified Career Management Professional. She specializes in coaching professional and executive clients, and providing job search strategies and tools to support their career advancement. Copyright JL Careers Inc. All rights reserved.
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Certified Executive Coach & Internationally Certified Career Management Professional
JL Careers Inc