Maximize the Power of your Professional References

SERIES: References

Stewarding the Relationship

Part 3: Making your list

Welcome back to our professional reference mini-series! For our last installment, it’s time to actually make the reference list that you’ll give to your interviewer. Of all your contacts, which are the best types to use? You’ve been stewarding relationships, so do you really have to tell them you’re submitting them as a reference? Let’s find out!

Whom do I list?

The most ideal professional reference would be a current or former supervisor. Typically, they are the ones most able to confirm dates of employment, position(s) held, performance feedback, and eligibility for rehire.

In many cases, it’s acceptable to have a coworker on there, provided you have given supervisors as well. But an entire reference page of only coworkers is not the strongest approach for you as an applicant. And if you’re a recent graduate, you can certainly provide names and contact information for professors and guidance counselors.

When it comes to how many of these references you need, interviewers will usually let you know what they require. However, a good rule of thumb, in general, is to list three to five professional references.

Give your references a heads up

And now, that brings us to another important (but often missed) reference tactic—alerting your references. Even if you have been regularly in touch with your contacts, it’s still best to let them know. It’s a very polite thing to do, but it serves several purposes for you as well.

For example, we have found that references are more likely to return a reference check call if they have advance notice of said call. And even better, they are more likely to give a thorough reference. When references have a heads up, it allows them (even if only at a subconscious level) to remember you as an employee and formulate some thoughts about you ahead of time. If the call catches them off guard completely, they may struggle under pressure to remember you. Typically, this translates into you not receiving the thoughtful, fabulous reference that you deserve!

Another bonus

The other benefit is that you can give the details of the job for which you are being considered. This includes the job title, responsibilities, etc. Many who are experienced at giving references know to then give the caller a list of strengths that connect you with the position. Hence, your reference can potentially help to further connect the dots for the prospective employer.

By doing all these things, you are helping your references to give you a great professional reference. And a great reference from them makes you a more solid candidate!

Adam Lafield, Recruiter & Marketing Coordinator