Get Your References Together
Your resume and cover letter may be in top shape, but what about your references? Employers may ask for a reference list when considering you for a job, so it needs to be in top form as well. Create yours by following these expert tips.
Format for References
Create a separate document that includes a list of people who have agreed to speak with prospective employers in support of your candidacy.
Your references should be listed on a page separate from other job application materials and should match your resume’s fonts and format.
Include the names and complete contact information of each reference, including job title, employer, business address, email address and telephone number. Their relationship to you -- supervisor, etc. -- should also be identified.
The list can also describe how the contact knows you, giving the reference checker context and a springboard for the conversation. “Consider adding a brief paragraph that describes a project that you worked on together or a skill that the person can attest to,” says Chris Nolan, SPHR, a Maynard, Massachusetts-based HR consultant.
How Many References?
It’s better to have more references than a prospective employer would likely check. It is advised that job seekers create a references pool they can use to strategically choose the best people to represent what you want highlighted for the opportunity.
Typical job seekers should have three to four references, while those seeking more senior positions should consider listing five to seven, experts suggest. And be sure to list your strongest reference first.
Choosing Your References
Your references are your personal evangelists -- they should know you very well and be able to speak about your qualifications for the job you’re pursuing.
Unless an employer requests otherwise, professional references are preferred over personal references, such as family, friends and neighbors, whom reference checkers will know are biased.
Building Relationships with Your References
Ask your references’ permission to add their names to your list. If some time has passed since your last job search, reconnect with each of your references. It's important to keep close contact with your references,” Murphy says. “If you haven't spoken to a contact in a while, don't expect a glowing recommendation.
Venne stresses the importance of informing your references that they might be contacted. “I once had a great candidate who didn’t inform his references I might be calling, and two of the three wouldn’t take my calls,” she says. “He lost the job opportunity.”
Be sure to respect your references’ privacy. “Ask each reference if there’s any information they do not want listed -- this will help protect your contact’s private information,” Nolan says.
And don't forget to keep your references in the loop. When you're interviewing, reach out to your references and give them an updated copy of your resume as well as the relevant job posting. Keep them apprised of any specific skills you think make you a good fit for the job or anything else you would like them to speak to the potential employer about to help your case.
When to Submit References
Unless otherwise requested, job references should be submitted later in the hiring process. “I encourage applicants only to submit references after they have been asked,” Venne says.
Shane agrees that you shouldn’t submit references with the resume. “Your reference list should be included in your portfolio and brought to job interviews, at which time they can be presented upon request,” he says.
Express Your Gratitude
Your references are doing you a favor that can help you land your next job. Shane offers the following tips for thanking your references:
- Whenever you leave a position, send your former supervisor a note thanking him for your association.
- Send your references a card during the holidays. The more personal contact you have with them, the more favorable they will feel toward you.
- Remember that giving a reference takes time. If you plan to use these references over the years, give something in return. For instance, each time your reference supports you with a prospective employer, send a thank-you letter. Better still, add a gift card or offer to take your reference to lunch or dinner.
Adapted from www.monster.com/careeradvice
By Kim Isaacs, Monster Resume Expert