Three Tips for Better References

References

I was discussing references and résumés with a colleague recently.  As someone who’s been on both sides of the hiring table, I thought I’d pass along three tips to help with your list of references.

  • When you’re deciding whom to list, try to use people who are familiar with your work.  Skip the personal contacts.   Supervisors or peers from previous employment are great references since it shows you’re not afraid to back up what you’re saying on your résumé.
  • If you are using someone from a group or association you’re involved in, be sure to give them a copy of your résumé. First of all, they may know of an opening but don’t know all of your qualifications, ergo an opportunity lost. Second, if you want them to speak of your greatness, they should have an idea of your work history. If they don’t, they may come across as someone who doesn’t really know you, and that will not go over well for sure.
  • List five people. Yes, five. I know some places only ask for three, but what if one of your references is on vacation, or is just really bad about returning calls? It’s better to have a couple extra listed and not need them than to only have a few. And, this may seem like common sense, but make sure to verify with them that it’s okay to use them as a reference. A surprise call to a past employer could backfire. Let them know what type of companies you’re applying to and for what kind of work.

On your reference sheet, list their complete name, title, company, phone number, and city/state as a minimum. I know some people list emails, but I always called when checking references—you can’t tell tone of voice in an email.  And you better believe that if I knew someone who worked for a previous employer, I called.  Even if they weren’t on the list, that was just being thorough.

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