Are strong references important to you in landing a great new job, linked to your accomplishments?
Of course they are. And yet, I find (as a recruiter) that too many candidates assume that the co-worker or boss or subordinate or vendor with whom they had a good-to-great working relationship will ‘have their back’ when they get that reference call, without giving them the respect and attention they deserve in this process. References need attention, regular updates, at a minimum, a phone call heads-up whenever their name is submitted (as a reference.)
Are good references hard to get? Depending on your circumstances, they can be. If you are in a position and being considered for a job outside of your current organization, how do you get references from people you see every week?
Or what about the relationships you had with a company that no longer exists, and maybe your best references from that experience now live in another state? Or what if you have worked and paid your way through college, yet haven’t worked in a professional job, and now have a shot at a ‘professional’ position, yet no professional references appear to be available because this will be your first ‘professional’ position?
If you are in one of these trickier situations, it compounds the ‘where to find references’ issue.
Anticipate one of the questions for an interview will be references and ask yourself, what are the multiple-purposes of a reference?
References validate stated accomplishments. References validate character. And references help an employer understand the person’s strengths and weaknesses, and understand how they would function as part of their team.
If you want your reference to confirm for the hiring manager all the good things they thought, and allay any concern about a glaring weakness, if you want your reference to talk about your pluses and minuses in a way that makes the caller want to say, ‘I must hire this person!’ then ATTEND TO YOUR REFERENCES like the final key to open the door to that offer.
Here are five tips to finding and maintaining good references:
1. Identify eight-to-twelve current and past associates; you want to ask them judiciously. A larger number of references will give you some flexibility; three for one position is usually sufficient.
2. Schedule a confidential visit with each potential reference; ask them in person, if the situation would develop, would they ‘be willing serve as a reference? ‘ If buying them a breakfast or lunch makes them more comfortable with your work-history and your story, do it.
3. If they no longer live in your community, turn in to Robert Downey, Jr., alias, Sherlock Holmes. ‘I have no way of reaching my past boss’ is NOT acceptable.
4. Follow up with them after you’ve submitted their name as a reference, and ask them for feedback on the reference call. You can learn valuable information casually when you ‘attend to your references,’ and
5. Treat them as members of your fan club; send out regular updates via e-mail or social media on your next-job pursuit. Let them know when you accept a new position; and stay connected.
This job-change process is rarely a one-time event. You never know when you might be able to do them a favor, or ask them to help you in the future.