Select References Wisely and Prep Them

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When selecting your references for job applications, two words of advice: choose wisely. You had better assume that potential employers will, indeed, contact these parties and that your former supervisors will likely be at the top of the list – even if you haven’t voluntarily offered up their names on your application.

If you are concerned that you and your former boss didn’t part on the best of terms, you may wish to identify other corporate contacts with whom you had better relationships (or who are perhaps more likely to simply follow company policy and confirm only your employment dates and title).

Alternative job reference contacts might include:

  1. A 2nd level supervisor with whom you had favorable dealings or a dotted line
  2. Someone in senior management who you believe might offer favorable, or at least neutral, commentary about you
  3. Peers, co-workers or corporate clients who can personally attest to your skills and expertise
  4. Your Human Resources representative, the party most likely to follow corporate policy and limit their commentary about you to prospective new employers
  5. Your subordinates, who really know better about your performance

Even if your relationship with your boss was a stellar one, consider choosing additional references from this list above to present employers with a more representative sampling of your overall attributes.

It’s important – even critical, say the reference-checking experts at Allison & Taylor – that you select from these possible reference categories with care, choosing the people that will reflect you in the best possible light. Most job seekers would be surprised to know that over 50% of the references Allison & Taylor contact provide a lukewarm or poor response to reference inquiries.

What constitutes a desirable reference? Ideally they will have had a favorable working relationship with you in the past, are supportive of your personality traits and work ethic and – most critically – will attest to your skills and expertise to potential new employers.

It’s also key for these people to be aware that you’ve listed them as a reference, and that they know how to respond on your behalf when an employer calls them- something that should be discussed in advance.

The timing and format of presenting this reference list to a prospective employer can also play a factor in getting that new job. Be sure to have a list of your references readily available (in the same format/font as your resume) to be given to a prospective employer upon request. Better still, offer it at the conclusion of an interview –it can create a very proactive (and favorable) ending impression.

Rather than simply providing a list of names and titles for references, organize them on a page under your name and contact information similar to the header for your resume. Include two columns, one for the individuals’ names next to a column called “Frame of Reference” In the first column, include reference name, title, contact information. In the second column provide one or two sentences about how you and that indvidual worked together and what he/she will attest to regarding your credentials.

Although not specific to PR postions, here’s a suggested format:

Professional References of Allison Taylor
42 Oak Street • Peoria, IL 44389
Home: (555) 000-0000 • Cell: (555) 000-0000

    Individual                       Frame of Reference
Stephen Eddy, Managing Director
Worldwide Industrial Initiatives, Inc.
Work: (555) 000-0000 Cell: (555) 000-0000
Mr. Eddy will speak from first-hand knowledge concerning my achievements in the cost-containment and inventory control arenas – I was his direct report over an 8-year period. He will be able to cite several key internationally based initiatives (particularly in Thailand and Malaysia) that reflect my knowledge of material control, procurement and supply chain management.
Jonathan Riggins, CFO
Financial Visions, Inc.
Work: (555) 000-0000 Cell: (555) 000-0000
Mr. Riggins was my direct supervisor over a 4-year period. He will attest to my credentials and successful track record involving varied disciplines including finance, IT management, material control and supply chain. He will also speak to my performance in key initiatives, in particular in the technology implementation and cost-reduction venues.
Melanie Magnuson, VP Operations
Technology Plus Corporation
Work: (555) 000-0000 Cell: (555) 000-0000
From our 6-year association at Technology Plus, Ms. Magnuson can cite with familiarity my abilities as both manager and leader. She is well positioned to attest to my corporate contributions in product life cycle planning as well as supply chain scheduling
Wolfgang Hauser, President
Akademie Enterprises, Inc.
Work: (555) 000-0000 Cell: (555) 000-0000
Dr. Hauser served as both my mentor and second-level supervisor over a 3-year period. Under his tutelage, I was able to hone my craft in inventory control and product procurement. He formally recognized my contribution towards a key product-sourcing achievement (involving a new supplier in Viet Nam) that resulted in a cost savings of $23M.
Alexander Metcalf, CTO
United Technological Services, Inc.
Work: (555) 000-0000 Cell: (555) 000-0000
Perhaps better than anyone, Mr. Metcalf can attest to – and is responsible for – my expertise in the IT arena. Under his leadership, I was a key contributor in the technological overhaul of our company’s remote site and B2B renovations and was a President’s Award recipient during my last two years with the company.

Showcasing a diverse offering of references in a concise and powerful format will help to distinguish you in a sea of job seekers.

Thanks to Allison & Taylor for this informative guest post. Contact them for more information about reference and background checks and resume re-writes,

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