A Reference on References

You’ve nailed the interview and now it’s time for them to conduct a reference check. Are you ready? Here are some simple tips on selecting references.

How Should I Select a Reference?

References are meant to be professional sources of information on your work ethic, skills, strengths, and occasionally, areas of improvement. A reference can mean the difference between you getting hired or not, so it is important to choose wisely and be prepared. There are a few general rules to follow when selecting your references.

First, make a list.

Select a manager, supervisor, or senior colleague wherever possible, especially from your most recent positions relevant to the job you’re applying for. In certain cases, it is not possible to provide a reference from your current employer, either because you’re afraid
of potential retaliation for applying elsewhere, or because your relationship is strained and you’re unable to feel confident that a positive reference will be given on your behalf. Do not fret. You can provide this information to the prospective employer if you’re inclined to explain, but more importantly, you will have 3-5 strong references to provide that will prove you have the soft and hard skills for the job you’re interviewing for.

I’ve never had a job before, who should I select as my references?

Everyone must start somewhere so do not be worried if you don’t have any professional references from past jobs. Reach out to a trusted teacher, community leader, or coach. Have you volunteered in your community? Build relationships with the organisers or supervisors so that you may request their information for future references. Do not use parents, friends, or family members as your references. You want to have credibility by having an unbiased contact providing information on your performance and abilities.

I Have My References; How Do I Use Them Correctly?

Do not place someone as a reference without first asking them.

This is a very important rule to follow as you want to be certain they feel comfortable giving you a reference and that the reference will be positive. Reach out to each one of your potential references while you’re updating your resume to request a reference from them. Asking a former employer or senior colleague is as simple as sending an email, calling them, or meeting with them to discuss your career goals and ask if they would be willing to assist you in your goals as a reference. Have a plan in case they say no. Some people do not feel comfortable speaking to other employers on behalf of someone else and that is okay. This is why you’ve made a list of 3-5 people to choose from.

Do not include your references with your resume and cover letter unless specifically requested.

Why? This will provide you with time to prepare your reference. Once you’re asked to provide your contacts, you should reach out to each reference and provide them with context. What job did you apply for? What skills are they looking for in that role? Do they feel they know you and your previous work enough to speak to it with a future employer? When possible, you do not want to surprise your references. This is also the perfect opportunity to request a date or time that the employer can reach them, as well as the correct method of contact (email, work phone, mobile, etc.). If the job wants your references as part of the application process, before hitting send, reach out to your references, and let them know! Just like you would if they were requested later in the hiring process. Using your cover letter or a space dedicated to extra information, you can provide the best times to contact your references. This will not only demonstrate respect for your references, but it will also demonstrate organisation to the employer. It’s never too early to make a positive impression!

Now that you have a quick guide to references, you’re ready to start that application process! Still have questions? Contact us for more information or a free consultation today!

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