If a potential employer reaches the point where they ask for your references, be happy. Checking references takes time and effort, so usually only candidates who are serious contenders for the position make it to the references stage.
References are people who can speak knowledgeably about your skills, experience, and work habits. Because references have the power to make or break your chances at landing the job, having a list of strong references is very important. Do you have a powerful list of references?
Because pulling together a strong group of references at the last minute can be difficult, let’s take some time and see how you can start developing your “power reference group” right now.
Who You Should List As References
Power references shouldn’t be your mom, a family member, or your best friend. Instead, they should be people you have worked with, worked for, or know professionally. It’s important that your references also have strong qualifications, character, and reputation.
To identify good candidates for your power list, consider:
- Co-workers at all levels. Don’t just stick with those in management, but also consider your peers as well.
- Customers or clients you’ve worked closely with in a previous job.
- Professors, if you are right out of college.
- Supervisors at an internship or apprenticeship.
- Leaders you’ve had contact with through avenues like volunteer activities.
How To Build Your List
Now it’s time to select and build your reference list. Following these steps can help you get your list in shape:
- Select at least three top references.
- Contact each one to ask if they can be included on your reference list.
- Let them know what types of jobs you are applying for, or, if you have the job listing, which skills you’d particularly like them to emphasize.
- Provide them with your resume, awards, and other career material so they can speak intelligently about your accomplishments.
- Do not ask them to lie.
Keep Multiple Lists
Another thing to consider is having a different list of references for different jobs. While a community leader or professor may have more pull with a nonprofit, using a former employer, public figure, or company executive may work better for a larger company.
Also, make sure to rotate your references so they don’t get burned out by too many reference calls.
Once you’ve qualified your references and have a good idea of which to use, create a document that includes each person’s name, title, company, email address, phone number, and your relationship to him or her.
Lastly, don’t forget to send a thank-you note to all your references who have agreed to help you land the job.