The interview went perfect. You are the top candidate for the job. You have arrived at the next step in the interview process. It’s time for the hiring manager to check your references. Keep in mind that most employers practice due diligence when it comes to checking references. A lack of references or a bad reference can bring a screeching halt to any job offer. The time to begin putting your references in order is before you actually need them.
Most employers will want the names and phone numbers for three of your past supervisors. Others may accept the names of your colleagues. Make sure you include both on your list. Don’t just list your references without doing some leg work ahead of time. Contact your references and ask if they would be able to provide a good reference for you. If there is any sort of hesitation, put them at the bottom of your list. You never want to list a reference who will be unable to say good things about you.
There are companies that have a strict policy when it comes to references. Employees are only allowed to confirm dates of employment, title and salary. If this is their objection ask if they will give you a “personal” reference – perhaps calling their cell phone instead of their office. Take care though; the hesitation may not be in conjunction with company policy. They may actually not have anything good to say about you.
If you are struggling for a potential reference, think broader. Think beyond your current supervisor when considering who to use as a reference. If you do volunteer work for other organizations consider using them as references. You can also ask your boss’ boss or colleagues from other departments, who know your work.
How to go about asking for a reference
If you have not talked to your potential reference in a while, don’t just list them as a reference on a form. Give them a call. Let them know that you are in the process of searching for a job. Ask if they would be able to provide a reference for you. Discuss what type of job you are applying for and potential points of discussion. While some may think this is forward, it’s better than being surprised that the reference they provided, while glowing, does not show you to be the best fit for the job. If necessary, send them your resume and a description of the job to which you are applying.
If you want to make sure they continue to provide references, send them a thank you note after each reference. You are taking up time out of their valuable day. There is nothing in it for them, but you have everything to gain – a job.
References should never be left up to chance. A mediocre reference can be the catalyst that either propels you or blocks you from getting a new job.