I worked as a Human Resources Manager for over 7 years, and you would be shocked to learn that when it came to the final steps of selecting a candidate, I was often left in a fog. A lot of this had to do with the fact that when it came time to reach out to the job references the applicant left on their resume or application, it fell flat.
Most people think that putting down close friends, relatives, and coworkers are the best way to go when selecting their job references, but oftentimes, this is a problem. Close friends, relatives, and coworkers may not be the best representation of you, your work ethic, and the goals that you have set forth. Sure, these people may love you and care for you, but they may not be the best to help represent you.
Job references are different than personal references, and most employers ask for job references. They don’t really care what Aunt Gloria or your mom has to say about you. They care about talking to an “expert” who knows the expert in you.
Recently, I was called upon to be a reference for a friend who used to also contribute to this site, and it got me to thinking about this process. I can assume that he put me down as one of his job references because he knew I could speak well of him, his skill-set, and his character. We aren’t the closest of friends, and we haven’t talked in years, but he gave me one of his coveted job reference spots because it is about closing the deal—and he knew I could help him close it honestly.
This post is all about how to choose job references that can help you land the job because it is needed. Following this guide can help you get a step closer to getting the gig you want.
They should know your work ethic
A good job reference should be able to speak to your worth ethic. How you make moves, what your strengths and weaknesses are, etc. They should also be able to answer in detail any questions that the interviewer has, without hesitation.
If your proposed job reference can’t do that, don’t put them on the list. They should be able to answer the questions, not create more of them.
They represent you, so choose accordingly
Job references must be articulate, well spoken, well-written, and most importantly, represent the professional that you are. This may not be your closest friend or your colleague, but that is okay. Again, this is not about personal relationships, but more about how you can be an asset to an employer.
They should be professional
While writing this, I felt this should be a non-issue, but in reality, it isn’t. I’ve called many a job reference that was smacking on the phone while talking, using slang, etc. Make sure that the person you put down is professional and is about business. If the reference is being sent via email, select someone who has a professional email address as well.
Impressions are everything. Who you put down as job references says a lot about you.
They should be prompt at responding
The recruiter or hiring manager doesn’t want to spend time chasing down your contacts. Select a job reference who can be available to take the call or answer the email in a timely fashion. Keep in mind their schedule, workload, and availability.
Giving a heads up to the job references on your list is also a good idea, so they can anticipate the call.
They should be able to give examples
The best recruiter will want to get to the heart of what you can and cannot do, so they are going to require answers that give examples of your work, your personality, etc. Make sure that your job reference can speak to that and be able to answer those questions. The more of a picture your reference can paint for them, the better.
People who make good job references
Those that could potentially make good references for you are mentors, college professors, colleagues, network or club members, collaborators, previous bosses, and team members.
The end goal is to get the job, and who you select as job references is an integral part of that. Here’s to selecting awesome references that help you get that offer letter.
What tips do you have for selecting good job references?