References

10 Steps To Preparing Top-Notch References

Advertisement

It pays to groom your references. Grooming your references is essential; knowing exactly where you stand and avoiding surprises can be the make-it or break-it in a search. A little time with a reference can result in great returns.

10 Steps For Preparing Top-Notch References

Here are 10 easy steps to preparing your references to work for you:

1. Invest Your Time

First, phone or visit your references. Demonstrate the importance of your request by investing your time.

2. Ask For Permission

Ask for their permission even if you feel it goes without saying that they will help. Get a commitment for an enthusiastic endorsement; but make sure they understand it is okay to decline and it can still be business as usual (if not now, perhaps another time).

3. Compliment Them

Communicate a sincere recognition of their accomplishments or their importance… that you think a lot of their success. You could say something like, “I’ve always admired your professionalism in business and hold the highest regard for your contributions to the industry.”

4. Know What To Cover

Most people know only a part of your background, so consider different references to speak to different areas of your background, experience, skill sets, and accomplishments. Be sure you know who’s who and what before you meet, so you can be sure to give each the appropriate overview.

5. Bring A Copy Of Your Resume

Provide a copy of your resume and go over the area of experience you feel they could endorse most enthusiastically. Prepare ahead to talk to them about the specific area and ask for their suggestions and advice. It’s flattering, even elevating, to be asked for advice.

6. Share

Together, shape the key selling points you want your reference to discuss. This will increase their retention and combine nicely with your resume. It’s also helpful to discuss types of roles and companies that are of interest to you and show them how your resume can be a script when they “perform.”

7. Make A List Of Questions

It will be helpful to develop a list of likely questions potential employers may ask. One (scary) question could be, “Can you explain to me the circumstances around him/her leaving your company?” You better be in sync! Another question may be, “Can you give me a general idea of the direction you see h/her career heading?” Or, “Would you rehire h/her?” Prepare careful answers and discuss them. After all, this will make helping you a lot easier for them.

8. Respect Their Time

Your references are likely to be busy people. Assure them you will respect their time and might only use them a few times, now and then… and mean it! They will not be very enthusiastic on the tenth call.

9. Avoid Giving References To Employment/Personnel Agencies

Personnel people may see them as potential targets for their own business and you could find yourself with “burned bridges.” Remember, you need to protect your references. At the Executive level, it’s different. You should expect to provide references to Executive search companies; but then, only if mutual interest has been established.

10. Follow Up

Finally, after you call or visit, send a follow-up letter expressing your appreciation and highlighting a few of the key (positive) points that can be said about you. After that, remember to keep your references updated during the interview process with a call or visit, if and when you submit their name so they aren’t taken by surprise. You may even suggest they keep your resume by their phones to make it easier for them to respond quickly and too, save them time. They will appreciate that.

The easier you make this for your references the happier they will be. Everyone likes to help others, they just don’t always know how. Although they will do their best, it isn’t always best for you. The 10 points herein will help them help you and create good chemistry along the way. When the chemistry is good between you and your references, odds are they will be much better references. Again, grooming your references is essential. You must know exactly where you stand and they should, too. That way, surprises are avoided.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Rob Taub

Rob, a veteran career services professional with 25 years in the biz, is Principal of Job Search Corner and creator of the blog “Job Searching with Rob.”

17 comments

  1. So true, Lorena.

    As with any relationship there;s give and receive … and if you're not learning or contributing, then you have a responsibility to use your two feet and move on, for neither can party benefit; just don't regret it, for there's always another relationship. Too much of of job search networking is for self gain. If everyone approached it like you say, not only will it benefit all parties, but it'll be fun too, right?

    Thanks you Lorena – you KNOW how much your comment means to me

    Warm regards,

    Rob

  2. It is a thin line, I know. I like to see on resumes, “References available upon establishment of mutual interest”. That should cover what you wrote re: when there's genuine interest expressed. We are on the same page, you and Elias!

    Thanks for your interest!

    Rob

  3. Hi Heather! You're absolutely right! And I might add, 'do it when you don't have to!' Building relationships is easiest when you're doing if for the sake of the relationship and not because you need a job. In fact, isn't the best time to build your network when you start a NEW job? Some might say that's disingenuous – as if you're looking for a job when you just accepted one. Well, that is not the case when it comes to networking (One man's opinion) :)

    Thanks again,

    Rob

    • Paul Hunter Jones

      This is a very good point. It is important to constantly seek and cultivate references. You never know when you will need that special reference.

  4. I agree whole-heartedly Dave. Especially with the quid pro quo. It isn't enough the scratch each others back. In this case it starts with swapping a name or referral, but what next? too often there's no cultivation afterwards and then 4 of us are unhappy, yes?

    Thanks for your comments, Dave. I really appreciate it!

    Rob

  5. So true, Lorena.

    As with any relationship there;s give and receive … and if you're not learning or contributing, then you have a responsibility to use your two feet and move on, for neither can party benefit; just don't regret it, for there's always another relationship. Too much of of job search networking is for self gain. If everyone approached it like you say, not only will it benefit all parties, but it'll be fun too, right?

    Thanks you Lorena – you KNOW how much your comment means to me

    Warm regards,

    Rob

  6. It is a thin line, I know. I like to see on resumes, “References available upon establishment of mutual interest”. That should cover what you wrote re: when there's genuine interest expressed. We are on the same page, you and Elias!

    Thanks for your interest!

    Rob

  7. Hi Heather! You're absolutely right! And I might add, 'do it when you don't have to!' Building relationships is easiest when you're doing if for the sake of the relationship and not because you need a job. In fact, isn't the best time to build your network when you start a NEW job? Some might say that's disingenuous – as if you're looking for a job when you just accepted one. Well, that is not the case when it comes to networking (One man's opinion) :)

    Thanks again,

    Rob

  8. I agree whole-heartedly Dave. Especially with the quid pro quo. It isn't enough the scratch each others back. In this case it starts with swapping a name or referral, but what next? too often there's no cultivation afterwards and then 4 of us are unhappy, yes?

    Thanks for your comments, Dave. I really appreciate it!

    Rob

  9. Great post Rob,

    “Prepare ahead to talk to them about the specific area and ask for their suggestions and advice”

    Asking for advice not only is flattering and elevating but also will show that you are open minded person and welcoming suggestions and advice,furthermore you are interested in growing as a human being and looking to increase your success.
    LorenaHeletea

    • So true, Lorena.

      As with any relationship there;s give and receive … and if you're not learning or contributing, then you have a responsibility to use your two feet and move on, for neither can party benefit; just don't regret it, for there's always another relationship. Too much of of job search networking is for self gain. If everyone approached it like you say, not only will it benefit all parties, but it'll be fun too, right?

      Thanks you Lorena – you KNOW how much your comment means to me

      Warm regards,

      Rob

  10. Good article. I would say to give your references to an agency IF the end client has expressed genuine interest in you. For example, here at Alumni Consulting, we only check a reference once an end client has actually scheduled an in-person interview with the candidate. At that point I think it IS appropriate to provide your references to an agency. Being cagey or evasive with references is a red flag to most recruiters.

    • It is a thin line, I know. I like to see on resumes, “References available upon establishment of mutual interest”. That should cover what you wrote re: when there's genuine interest expressed. We are on the same page, you and Elias!

      Thanks for your interest!

      rob

  11. Great points here, Rob. Don't forget how important it is to keep in touch with colleagues, former co-workers, and professors that you hope to use as a reference. Building a good relationship with your references before you ask for a recommendation is key to making sure you know they mean more to you than your resume.

    • Hi Heather! You're absolutely right! And I might add, 'do it when you don't have to!' Building relationships is easiest when you're doing if for the sake of the relationship and not because you need a job. In fact, isn't the best time to build your network when you start a NEW job? Some might say that's disingenuous – as if you're looking for a job when you just accepted one. Well, that is not the case when it comes to networking (One man's opinion) :)

      thanks again,

      Rob

  12. Rob

    Excellent summary!

    I would suggest that the grooming process starts even before the stage you so well define. All of us must first live our lives, both vocationally and personally, in a manner that potential referral sources are truly pleased to be asked to be a referral.

    I am reminded of that which one of my mentors taught me long ago. Zig Ziglar taught me that “you can get whatever you want in life IF you will help enough others get what they want.” He would remind all of us that this mantra needs to be a life philosophy, not simply a tactic (ala quid pro quo).

    So often, I see people asking for a great reference and yet they have not groomed the request by their behaviors in the months and years before the request.

    • I agree whole-heartedly Dave. Especially with the quid pro quo. It isn't enough the scratch each others back. In this case it starts with swapping a name or referral, but what next? too often there's no cultivation afterwards and then 4 of us are unhappy, yes?

      thanks for your comments, Dave. I really appreciate it!

      Rob

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *