By Jaymie Pompeo
Contributor, Career Services
Once you’ve gotten to that final stage of the hiring process, most times you’ll be asked to provide a few references. Employers want to know more about their final contenders — beyond what’s been shared on a resume or interview. Personalized feedback from selected references may just be that deciding factor that makes or breaks your chance in attaining that final job offer.
As a job seeker, it’s essential to cultivate the right network of people, nurture those relationships over time and provide ample preparation to ensure you’re promoted effectively. Just like you’d take time to revamp a resume, customize a cover letter or prepare for an interview, be attentive in approaching references, using the following tips:
Recruit your references wisely: Always choose credible people who will speak positively on your specialties. Aside from supervisors and co-workers, consider other sources that have witnessed your amazing strengths and abilities through volunteer work, internships, group projects, leadership initiatives, business acquaintances/clients, mentor relationships and professors.
Ask for permission: The last thing you want is for an employer to contact someone who is caught off guard or provides a negative impression. Never assume that someone will serve as a positive reference – always ask for confirmation that you’ll be supported in your future endeavors.
Keep an updated reference list: Unless it’s specifically required through a job application process, never list references on your resume. Instead, plan to keep a separate document to furnish upon request of an employer which includes references’ names, most up-to-date contact information, and brief details on the role they held when working with you.
Nurture the relationship: I’m a firm believer in keeping some sort of connection with references. Whether it’s connecting occasionally through email, a phone call or messaging through social media platforms, your efforts will ease any awkward tension that arises in approaching them for a reference, especially when significant time has passed. Most importantly, it shows that you value them much more than just for your own personal gain. Trust me, it makes all the difference.
Provide adequate notice. Plan to alert your references with an estimated time frame on when they may be contacted by employers. Personally, I like to forewarn references once I’m committed to starting a job hunt; however, if that seems too early for you, definitely make it a point to touch base before submitting their contact information over to an employer.
Share your current resume and position description: As professionals, every experience we partake in evolves skill sets and qualifications over time. Unless you already connect frequently with references about this, plan to have a quick update on your most recent accomplishments, along with details on the job you’re after. This allows them to prepare by reflecting on the most marketable qualities they can honestly speak about to endorse you successfully.
[Related article: Job Search Strategy: Tapping Your Network]
About the Author
Jaymie completed her bachelor’s in business administration with Florida Atlantic University. Her career journey began in human resources, where she handled several aspects of the employee experience such as new hire orientations, team buildings, employee relations and exit interviews. Motivated in helping others succeed, she transitioned into higher education with American Public University System (APUS) in 2010. The experience she gained in academic advising helped shape her passion towards empowering students and alumni with their career journey, particularly those transitioning from military to civilian work. For this reason and many more, she is excited to be a career coach supporting interests with homeland security, emergency and disaster management, criminal justice and security management.
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