While your resume and interview answers play a key part in whether you’ll get the job, so do references. Employers use these to verify details, ensure there are no discrepancies, and fill in any gaps of information.
The right references can secure the offer, while the wrong ones can sabotage it. To help you choose wisely in the process, here are some tips to keep in mind.
Tip #1: Use managers.
Employers don’t want references for only those you worked alongside. They want references primarily from those who managed you. This will give them the most insight into your performance, strengths and weaknesses, and whether you’re the right fit for the job. So think carefully about which past managers will paint you in the best light during a reference phone call.
Tip #2: Review the job description.
What are the most important traits or abilities for the role? Outline two or three and then choose references who can verify that you have these skills.
For instance, if problem-solving is a key part of the job, then think about a past boss or colleague who can discuss specific ways you solved problems. The more relevant that your references can make your background, the better your chance of getting the offer.
Tip #3: Go outside of paying jobs for references.
If, for instance, you served on the board of a charitable organization, then an individual you served with might be the ideal reference for a certain position. The same goes for any consultant or pro bono jobs you’ve performed.
Tip #4: Customize your references.
You might submit different references depending on the specific position. For instance, if a past project you worked on with a colleague is highly relevant for one employer – but not necessarily others – just submit the individual for that particular job. You don’t have to provide the same list of references to every employer.
Tip #5: Prepare your references.
Before listing someone as a reference, ask for their permission. Once you have it and you’ve submitted their name and contact information, prepare them for the call. Explain details about the job and why you think you’re the right fit. If there are any specific projects, accolades, or skills you’d like them to discuss, be sure to let them know.
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