What Will Your References Say About You?

Reference checking

Often lost in the job search process is the need to have rock solid references ready to vouch for you. Too many job candidates wait until the last minute to throw together contact information of references when, in fact, they should be spending as much time on reference development as they do on updating their resumes.

Earlier posts here have discussed the reference check process, but Jeff Shane of reference checking firm Allison & Taylor insists that you must take a close look at your references each time you make a change to your resume. He says your reference list should meet these four criteria:

  1. Does your reference list reflect the best people to cast you in a positive light to a prospective employer – or could there be someone else who would be a better choice?
  2. Are your selected references truly going to give your prospective employers the kudos you’re hoping for?  If you’re less than certain that they will, you’d better check them beforehand before they go “live” with your prospective new employer.  Have a reference check conducted beforehand to make sure.
  3. Do your references have a comprehensive knowledge of your skills and abilities, and can they fluently convey this knowledge?
  4. Are your references people with whom you’ve stayed in touch, and kept updated on your career moves and successes?  Will they be able to provide current information about you to a prospective new employer(s)?

By providing a bit of insight beyond name, email and phone number for each of your references allows you to emphasize key points in your resume. Since the additional detail is unexpected, doing so also makes a powerful statement to a prospective employer.  While I usually suggest waiting to provide references upon request, a properly prepared reference list (see this sample). The extra detail underscores your keen interest in the job, plus it requires that you have more than a cursory conversation with your references. The more your reference knows about the job and your specific capabilities in handling it, the more likely you’ll get a great reference.

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