Selecting strong employment references requires more thought and commitment than you might think. Here are a few tips for getting the right references.
1. Customize the references to the position you’re interviewing for.
No job or interview process is the same so your references shouldn’t be the same either. Ask yourself which of your references can speak to the experience the interviewer is looking for. Here’s a great example, a potential client asked me if I could deliver all that I promised. Instead of tripping over myself reassuring him, I simply suggested he speak to a past employer who I did very similar work for. That past employer can speak to what working with me on corporate culture and change management really looks like. However, I wouldn’t recommend the potential client speak to a past client about my change management skills since the client didn’t have direct experience with me in that area.
2. Get permission
Forgiveness not permission is a BAD IDEA when listing references. I’ll never forgot the day I called a candidate’s references only to have one of them say, “He really shouldn’t’ have listed me as a reference.” I, of course, wanted to know more right away and the reference was perfectly willing to share a horror story or two. I never moved forward with the candidate. The candidate clearly didn’t ask permission from the reference before listing him. Do not take it personally if someone says no, simply move on to someone who is willing to assist.
3. Inform the reference when you think someone might be calling.
If you have started an interview process & have provided references (with their permissions of course) be sure to let the reference know they may be getting a call and who it might be from. In a world of voicemails and 1000+ emails daily, this will tell the person to be on the lookout and can speed up the interview process getting you an offer that much faster.
4. Get rid of “References Available Upon Request” on your resume
Everyone knows you’re willing to supply references should they ask for them. This line just takes up space on your resume that could be filled with something better.