Your Quick Guide to Job References

While embarking on a job search, many people spend a lot of time focusing on resumes, cover letters and the interview itself, all of which are incredibly important. However, an often overlooked, yet crucial, aspect of the job search is the reference check. As someone who conducts countless reference checks for applicants to my company and others, I’ve seen many cases where candidates have been removed from consideration after speaking to their professional references. 

Purpose of the reference check

When speaking to an applicant’s professional references, the hiring manger’s overall goal is to get confirmation that the candidate performed the duties that they said that they did and performed them well. Hiring managers are also looking to get a sense of the applicant’s strengths and weaknesses, confirmation of job title, dates of employment and any accomplishments. 

Who is a good reference?

Choose references that you know will speak well to your ability to do the position and not just those that can speak well of you in general. Many candidates simply list people who can speak highly of them as a person, but have never worked with them in a professional capacity. This is not helpful to a hiring manager and could hurt your chances of moving forward if most of the people you listed are just character references. Therefore, the best references are usually former supervisors, followed by co-workers that you worked with closely. Depending on the type of position you are going for, clients could be a good reference as well. The most important thing is to look at the duties and skills of the job you are going for and choose references that can speak to your ability to do those well. 

Helpful hint: When giving your list of references to the hiring manager, give an explanation as to your relationship with the reference and what that person can speak about. This will help the hiring manager tailor their questions accordingly or choose who they want to speak with depending on what they want to know. 

Prep your references

Never assume that someone is willing to be a reference for you. Always engage with your references beforehand and make sure that they are willing and eager to serve as a reference. I once called a candidate’s reference who told me he would not recommend that candidate based on prior shoddy work he knows he’s done. Needless to say, that candidate did not get the job. Give your references a heads up as to what the position entails so they can be prepared to answer any pertinent questions and let them know when they can expect to be getting a call. Unfortunately, many candidates never make it to the next stages because the hiring manager can’t get in touch with the references, so make sure your reference will be available or can be counted on to return the hiring manager’s call. 

You’ve fine-tuned your resume, tweaked your resume and polished up your interview skills. Don’t let your hard work go in vain by neglecting your references. A glowing report by a relevant reference can do wonders in securing your next job.