References are a weak link in the recruiting chain.
Everyone knows that candidates will (should) submit only those colleagues who will speak highly of them. So why not strengthen your reference list? Why not differentiate yourself in a way hat many other candidates fail to do?
Instead of mistakenly seeing references as an after thought to your job search, make them a key part of your strategy to set yourself apart from your competitors.
Here are some tips on what to do, and what to avoid:
- Submit knowledgable credible references, individuals who are up to date on your performance and relevant experiences. Hint, when you ask someone to be a reference, brief them. If you have not worked together for a while, spend some time reinforcing your relationship and briefing the individual on some of your recent experiences/successes as well as your values regarding leadership and interpersonal relationships at work.
- Do not assume all former colleagues or employers loved you. Do not assume that they will say the right thing.
- Do not submit referees who are not enthusiastic. Damning by faint praise, an English idiom for words that effectively condemn by seeming to offer praise, can wreck a candidates job search.
- Brief your references on the position you are pursuing, spell out what the company is looking for in terms of prior experience and accomplishments. Remind them of your relevant past successes and point out the contributions you can make — the value you can add — for the prospective employer. When you include former subordinates, as you should, remind them of your style, any mentoring, team development, etc.
- Select references with credibility — a former superior, a couple of peers and two subordinates. While most require three references, submit four or five in case the recruiter or employer has difficulty contacting one.
- Provide the reference’s current title, place of employment, preferred contact method and their email address. The latter is helpful for the recruiter or employer to establish contact, alert them that they will receive a call and ask for a recommended time. Our reference team works to schedule specific appointments with the references.
- Do NOT submit a reference who cannot speak to your relevant experience. This means personal or professional friends, your pastor, banker or even your accountant. If they cannot speak to your experience and how you can help the prospective employer, leave them off the list. If character references are needed, you can add those later.
- If you got the sack, or were laid off, you might include a reference who can speak to the circumstances, especially if it was through no fault your own.
Candidates often see references as a necessary after-the-fact part of the recruitment process, but nothing could be further from the truth. The are, they should be, integral to the decision process. Having killer references that can speak to your strengths in connection with the employer’s needs can help you close the deal.