Manage Your References: Ensure They Work for You.

In the final stages of the interview process, you will most likely need to submit professional references to the employer.

Rule #1 – Assemble a list of possible references well before you need them for a reference check.

Identifying Who Will Provide Positive Feedback

  • Former managers or supervisors (even your boss’s boss), peers, individuals who directly reported to you, internal or external suppliers, and even customers make the best references.
  • Avoid using personal references. Recruiters are often suspicious of your employment history when there is a notable absence of managers or coworkers on your reference list.
  • Identify a pool of five alternatives. You may not need all five. Yet, when you receive a job offer dependent upon a reference check, you will want to consider who of the five directly connects to the opportunity at hand.

Immediately Begin Letting Your References Work for You

  • Your references are people who know you well and will say positive things about your work performance. Don’t wait to contact your references for the first time when you want to use them for a reference.

Rule #2 – Your references are the first people you should contact as part of your networking efforts. Use your references to help you find your new job.

Notify References

  • Before you begin providing potential employers your references’ contact information, contact everyone on your reference list and request their permission to do so.
  • You don’t need to tell each reference every time you apply for a job – only when an employer tells you they will be making contact.
  • Each reference should know the specific topics an employer focused on in your interview. This knowledge allows the reference to similarly focus his/her responses. For example, if the focus was on your advanced Excel skills or project management leadership, ask your references to be prepared to make supportive statements about these areas.

Rule #3 – Tell your references what to focus on.

Using Past Performance Reviews

  • If you have maintained a file of past performance reviews, refresh your references’ memories of key accomplishments and core competencies.
  • You will want to ensure your references recall and communicate both responsibilities and accomplishments. You cannot afford to have a key reference wing it on your behalf.

Rule #4 – Managing what your references say about you is your responsibility.

Remind Your References of Key Information

  • How long they worked with you.
  • Your job duties and accomplishments.
  • Your unique differentiators.
  • Follow through with an email summarizing your conversation. If you send such an email, be certain to label your summary as a DRAFT for consideration.

Rule #5 – Providing talking points will make a difference.

Recommended Reading

Learn to quickly network like a pro.

–The Job Dog


Begin assembling and using your references today as part of your networking efforts.

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