Oftentimes potential employers will ask for professional references – colleagues who can offer additional information on a candidate’s abilities. When this happens, the spotlight shifts and control over the dialogue is relinquished to a former manager or co-worker. Here, an individual’s success in closing a pending job offer is no longer in their hands. Or is it?
According to Ajilon, taking an active role in selecting strong professional references that will effectively showcase your talents and on-the-job performance is key to securing a potential job offer. These individuals have the ability to present an objective view while bringing your resume to life – and this type of credibility is critical at the final stages of the hiring process.
Below is some simple advice on how you can effectively secure strong professional references:
Throughout your career, you’ve likely worked with a wide array of individuals. Identify which relationships are strongest and who might best articulate your value and potential. If you have a strained relationship or left a company on uneven terms, select former bosses or supervisors you’ve worked with in other parts of the company, as these individuals will speak more highly of your accomplishments. However, hiring managers often will want to speak with your direct report, so be prepared to address a situation proactively if you can’t secure a reference from this person.
Before providing names and phone numbers, always seek permission from your references in advance. A surprise phone call from a potential employer may illicit a negative reaction and will not offer enough time for them to prepare. Asking their permission is not only courteous, but will also provide an opportunity for you to discuss the potential job and any points you would like them to articulate.
Keep them well informed.
Make sure your references know what they’re talking about! Provide them with most recent versions of your resume and cover letter so that they have the same information as the person reaching out. Also, be sure to keep them apprised of where you’re applying. The most effective references are individuals who know you well, including what you’ve done and where you want to go next.
Different references for different reasons.
As you apply for multiple positions, different employers may be focused on specific skills or experiences. Knowing this, be sure to maintain multiple references who can speak to each of these separate items, as providing one generic list to each potential employer is not always the most effective approach. If an interviewer was intrigued by a special project you worked on, have someone from that team speak to them. If quantitative skills are imperative, offer references who will comment on your abilities in this area.
Keep in contact with former managers and colleagues as you move forward in your career. These individuals may not only serve as great references now, but also in the future. Make sure to leave on good terms with employers as you may need to call on these individuals again. If maintained appropriately, they can be valuable members of your professional network for your entire career.