Advice on References

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Have you ever found yourself panicking late in the interview process when asked for a list of references? Your professional references should never be quickly thrown together, which seems to be a common mistake job seekers make. In fact, the final hiring decision will sometimes come down to who had better professional reviews, so you want to be prepared. To improve your chances of getting the best evaluations possible, review these tips before handing over your list of references.

Use the Right People

Put some thought into your three professional references. Your references do not necessarily have to be supervisors from your last three positions. For example, if you’re interviewing for a management position, it would be clever to have one reference be someone you have previously managed. Remember, you want your references to have positive conversations about your work habits, so your childhood best friend isn’t an option.

Ask Permission

This is basic, but may be the most important. Never just assume someone is willing to give you a great review. Asking permission is essential because:

  1. They may not have liked you as much as you thought they did, and you can’t afford a bad review.
  2. Your old boss may have loved you, but it’s against their company policy to provide a reference.
  3. They may think highly of you, but on the spot with no warning, they could draw a blank and say the wrong things.

If they never return your calls or are unable to provide a reference for you, you will know to find a replacement. Otherwise, the reference will give you permission and appreciate the heads up.

Prepare Them

After you have permission to use someone as a professional reference, it’s a good idea to give them the details of the position before the company reaches out. It’s okay to remind them of specific accomplishments and skills you have that relate to the new opportunity. Let them know how you sold yourself, so they can do the same.

Keep in Touch

It’s always good advice to maintain your professional relationships. Send frequent emails to your references or ask to meet for lunch. They may have given you permission to use them as a reference now, but if you need to use them again years down the road, you can easily be forgotten if you don’t check in.

Be Thankful

Your references are taking time out of their busy day to do you a favor. If appropriate, offer to be a reference for them in return or at least make sure you follow up with a sincere thank you email/letter.

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