How to Pick and Ask for Good References

You know that you are nearing the last stage of the interview (and that it is right for you) when a potential employer asks for a recommendation. However, if you’re not ready, you may have to rack your brains at the last minute to find a good reference. Who are you asking and what is the best way to contact?

This post was originally published on the Muse website .

As you approach the finish line of your interview, you are often faced with the following three questions:

  1. “When are you ready to start?” (Or how many notices should you give your current employer?)
  2. For some jobs: “Can we prepare you for a medical and drug test?”
  3. “Could you provide us with a list of professional references we can contact?”

Question number three can frustrate even the strongest candidates if you are not prepared to respond quickly by providing names, titles, relationships, and current contact information for any number of people they would like to talk to.

Don’t get caught up in skirmish at this point in the game. Your quick response and the quality of your recommendations will help you cover the distance if played correctly. Let’s start.

Who should I (or not) list as a reference?

Typically, your prospective employer wants to speak to the following people in order of importance (depending on your job title):

  1. Your current manager or supervisor
  2. Your previous managers or supervisors
  3. Your current colleagues or clients (if you are interviewing for client work)
  4. Your previous colleagues or clients
  5. Your personal recommendations or friends who will vouch for you

Number five, by the way, is a distant fifth place. Leave that just in case you have a few other options, and be sure to ask if you can include personal recommendations before doing so. Plus, if you’re a college graduate (or recent graduate), you can make sure to include professors who can talk about your productivity and work ethic.

Never (ever) include relatives unless you work directly or with one of them. Oh, and absolutely never give a fictitious name and then instruct your buddy to “pretend” to be your employer or coworker. Recruiters aren’t stupid. Treat them this way at your own risk.

Keep in mind that the main reason potential employers want to review your references is because they want a third party to vouch for your performance and character in the workplace. You can advertise your greatness all day long in interviews, but it’s really gratifying for decision makers when others advertise for you.

Should they be on my resume?

Noooo. Heaven, no. Not only do you not need to list your links, you shouldn’t. This takes up unnecessary resume space , and there is a small chance that the recruiter may be more interested in, say, your manager (whom you listed) than he or she in you. There is no need to convey all this information before capturing him or her.

Likewise, you do not need to write “Links available on demand”. This is a matter of course. When the hiring manager wants them, he or she will ask for them. 100% of the time.

What if I am secretly looking for a job?

This can be tricky. If you are currently working – and looking for a job in secret – who can you trust during these last critical steps in your job transition? I cannot answer this question unambiguously, because all situations are individual, and the stakes can be quite high. Trust your intuition.

You most likely won’t be able to use your current manager as a reference. Of course, consider bringing in former managers. But you should also consider asking one or two colleagues with whom you have a close personal bond (and established level of trust). If and when you ask them for this support, be very clear about how important it is for you to keep your search a secret – and the possible consequences for you if they start chatting.

Also, if you’re giving your potential employer a relatively weak list of references, be sure to warn them that you know about it and explain why.

How can I ask?

I always encourage clients to approach potential recommendations with specifics instead of saying, “Hey, could you be my recommendation?” Do this and you have to let the chips fall anywhere in terms of what this person is offering. And in the same vein, if possible, do it over the phone. You will get a much better idea of ​​how excited (or not aroused) this person is to help you.

Be sure to frame your request so that it details the role you are playing, what you think the caller is likely to want to talk about, and how he or she might be most helpful. For example, you can say:

“Since they are going through so many changes and restructuring right now, I guess they will want to make sure I have strong leadership skills and the ability to fix team and program problems. If you want, I would like you to tell in detail about the program that we relaunched in 2014 ”.

Be specific and ask a direct question at the end of the conversation: “Can I count on you to give me positive feedback if the company contacts you?”

Don’t assume that your former coworker or boss will compliment you. You never know – she might be jealous of your opportunity here, or feel like you missed out on something last year. If you ask this question, you will either get “Yes, of course you can count on me” or an awkward pause or idle talk. Don’t list those who respond with awkward pauses or idle talk. Warm links can drown you at the finish line.

Is there anything I should provide as a recommendation?

Ideally, provide them with a copy of the job description or an overview of the role and main responsibilities. If you can, give them some information about the person you expect to call them so that they feel up to date and ready to talk.

Also, if it’s someone you’ve used as a link before (and you suspect it would be okay to be listed again), please let him or her know. Don’t list people without telling them that you used them as a guide for the next opportunity. This is rude and can piss them off to the point that they won’t leave you a rave review.

What should I do after being contacted?

To be honest, you don’t always know when you were contacted, but often your people will contact you to inform you that the conversation has just taken place.

What are you doing? It’s simple – thank him or her and offer to repay the service if you ever need it. And when will you get this job? Be sure to let each of your recommendations know and think about a small thank you gift, like a gift card for coffee or lunch.

Do it right, take your distance and enjoy this awesome new gig.

Your Complete Guide to Finding and Getting the Best Possible Recommendations | Muse


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