Take a look at your references. How much thought did you put into selecting them? If you are like a majority of job seekers, you did not put much thought into it at all. You picked people who you knew would say nice things about you and who you did not mind asking to be a reference.
Your references can tilt the balance in your favor over another candidate and possibly lead a potential employer to consider you for more responsibilities and a higher salary. Therefore reference selection should not be treated as a perfunctory exercise. You should put as much thought and preparation into reference selection as you do other aspects of your job search strategy.
Make Sure Your References Can Speak to Your Strengths.
It is a good sign a potential employer is ready to offer you a position when they begin to call your references. But references that can’t provide information about and examples of your professional attributes and personal strengths will leave the potential employer scratching their head as to why you included them on the references list.
When selecting references consider whether the person can provide an example or examples of your work ethic, ingenuity, thought processes, leadership, ability to solve problems, etc.? You want your references to be able to speak to your professional attributes. If references can only offer up irrelevant non-qualifiers like, “He’s fun to party with” or “She’s a solid person” they must be deleted from the references document.
Colleagues Don’t Always Make Good References</strong
What about using references from your current employer? That can be tricky. If you don’t want your employer to know that you’re looking for a job, you would leave off references related to your current position. Trust no man, especially one you work with, not to spill the beans intentionally or unintentionally to others in the workplace.
Far better references are past colleagues, customers, vendors, leaders in the community or others with whom you’ve worked on projects that might not be work related.
Make sure your references are relevant to the industry or position you are targeting as well. This means you may need to have a longer list of references from which to draw given each particular position to which you apply.
Additional Context = Greater Impact
Add greater impact to your reference list by providing contextual information about the reference, e.g. “Ms. Roster and I served together on the committee for the largest fundraiser on behalf of St. Mary’s Hospital. She can vouch for my innovative approach to relationship management, ability to identify new opportunities and ability to close high value donors.”
Yes. Get Your References Permission.
Get your references permission before adding them to your list. Be sensitive to your references’ preferences for contact and make it clear on the references document.
Getting permission is a great time to tell your references why you chose them to speak on your behalf. This way you can prep your references a bit on what you would like them to emphasize about you to a potential employer. Don’t assume someone will say what you’re expecting them to say. Give them a little guidance.
If you put some strategic thought into the selection of your references, you will put yourself in a much better position when it comes time to negotiate that offer.
The best is yet to come,