Tips to Picking the Right Job References
Many job seekers go through job hunting by first prepping the cover letter and resume, but when it comes time to providing job references, they end in a scramble to put them all together. Why put yourself in a similar situation, knowing that most employers today will be asking for job references? While checking job references typically comes later in the interviewing process, when the employer is down to only a handful of candidates, it is important to prep for when job hunting – and it should not be left till the end.
Having good job references is critical to a successful job search. It only takes one bad reference to turn your successful progress into a lost opportunity. Job references offer what employers view as credible information. You can write what you want on the resume and say what you want at the job interview, but the truth to it all often comes out when job references are checked. To the prospective employer, job references will be the most candid about your true character and abilities.
So, to avoid hurting your chances and to keep the process moving along smoothly to a job offer, work on obtaining reference letters in advance. And when picking which references to use, consider:
When picking job references, go with professional sources that may help add to your credibility. The most credible sources include your current/former boss, clients, colleagues (at your level or above), and professors. These are individuals who have direct experience with you under a professional setting like at work or in school. Using any other sources like a childhood friend, neighbor, or family member can be devalued because feedback received may be biased.
If you plan to use a job reference, be sure that the individual is on board to be your reference. Make sure they will be available to respond and that you have the appropriate contact information to share with the employer. Also, keep your job reference contact in the loop when you are going through the interview process so they are informed that there may be a potential call or email from the employer. Providing references who are unavailable to respond is the same as not having provided any references at all.
Saying the Right Things
Always provide job references who can speak to your skills, strengths, work ethic, and/or your character. Prospective employers are looking for insight into these matters. For example, if you’re applying for the job of graphic designer and provide an old boss as a job reference, it would be in your best interest that they can not only speak of your character and work ethic, but also your graphic design capabilities and skills. To prompt your job references to convey the right message, it’s always best to debrief them on the job you’re interviewing for and the skills desired. You can also speak of experiences you recall that are applicable for the job, which will give your contact some point of reference to talk on.
Countering Problematic Backdoor References
Just because you’ve provided the requested number of job references to the employer doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll stop them from checking in with contacts who are not part of your list. It may feel as though you have minimal control here, but there are ways you can take it into your own hands (read: “Making Sure You Get a Good Reference”). Another method to countering any problematic backdoor references is to ensure the job references you provided do a fantastic job of telling your story. Employers will ultimately look at the overall picture in making their hiring decision, so if you’ve impressed them on the resume and at the job interview, and have stellar feedback from the job references provided, it can outweigh any negative that may come out from a problematic backdoor reference.
Remember to not leave prepping for job references until the end. You and your job references should be appropriately prepped to present a stellar review of your professional character.