Where Are Your References?
This question certainly will send chills down any student’s spine. From high school history papers to your final thesis in graduate school, nothing is worse than dealing with references. Ironically enough, however, the word “reference” can be the word (in a different sense, of course) that lands you that dream job down the road.
Too often do job seekers absentmindedly hand over an application and/or resume without taking a second glance at their listed references. The fatal mistake is assuming each reference is guaranteed to be your biggest ally in your seemingly triumphant trek towards employment. Have no fear, however— we’re here to get you on the right path. Here are two major tips to keep in mind when selecting and managing your references throughout the job search.
Choose wisely. You don’t always have to choose your former supervisors just because you worked most closely with them. Be honest with yourself—if you have any doubt that someone may not have the best things to say, don’t use that person. Consider individuals across various levels that might be more familiar with your strengths and skills, such as co-workers or supervisors in other departments. Certainly take advantage of a reference in another capacity, as well—a mentor, former professor or business partners will add nicely to your list of supervisors or co-workers.
Communicate often. It’s one thing to select the three best possible individuals for your reference list. But it won’t get you far if you don’t involve them in your job search. First, ask them for their permission—never assume they are willing to testify on your behalf. Be sure you have all of their most recent employment and contact information so there are no hiccups when an employer is trying to reach them. Finally, keep in touch with them. Make them aware of the specific position and what the employer is looking for, follow up with them, and thank them for their efforts to help you.
Again, a complete and detailed set of reliable references can be what sets you apart from otherwise equally qualified candidates. Don’t let this aspect of the job search trip you up!