You love everything about this new job possibility. The people are great. The position is challenging. The location is perfect. The prospects are good. They seem to like you. The conversation moves to details. They ask for references. Now what?
In the olden days you typed up their contact info and kept the list in your portfolio. When asked for references you could whip out the list. Voila! Done.
Hold on there, bucko. Not so fast. The new world requires a different response. Nothing is static anymore. A pre-typed list of folks who long ago agreed to vouch for you is no longer sufficient.
Here are some tips for using references in today’s job market:
- Identify: Identify 5 or more people you worked with who can vouch for your skills and experience. Talk to them ahead of time to obtain permission. But don’t just type up the list and keep it in your portfolio. Consider in advance how you can use those folks.
- Customize: Like everything else about job searches today, references must be customized. Consider the specific job you are interested in. Which references can vouch for the skills and experiences you want to highlight for that particular job? Probably a few are better than others. If you have five references identified, perhaps only three have first-hand knowledge of your skills and experience. These are the folks you want to have as references in Job A. Other references might be better for Job B.
- Contact: When the discussions with a company are going great and you think a job offer might be close, contact the three or four folks who previously agreed to be references and ask permission again to use them for references. Talk to them about this specific job. Tell them the details. Share what areas you would like them to focus on if called. Ask them if they would be willing to highlight certain aspects of your skills and experience that you have been highlighting in your own discussions. If they are agreeable, confirm the contact method they prefer. Be sure to confirm phone numbers and email addresses to be sure you have the most recent contact information.
- Create your list: If the people you just contacted about being a reference for Job A agree, now it is time to type up your list of references. Include the contact information you just confirmed. Now you can put this list in your portfolio for the moment you need it.
- Call each reference just prior to releasing the reference: Tell your reference about the specific job and a little about what you want them to say.
- Share your list at the right time: When a company asks you for references, you can pull out the typed sheet or email/text the list to them. If you have the opportunity, tell your potential employer a little about each person including how you know them.
- Follow up with the reference: Find out what the potential employer ask, what kinds of comments were made, and whether the reference gained any insight into how the potential employer felt about your chances.
References can make or break your candidacy. Be smart and strategic about which references you use to highlight the information about you that you want to highlight.
Be sure your references fit into your Personal Marketing Plan. The Interview Doctor can help!!