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How to Leverage Job References to Win Offers

Posted June 30, 2014 by Sally Calloway in Career Moves


 You are ready to start your job search equipped with a killer resume, and you have practiced and prepared well enough to nail interviews. Before you begin applying however ask yourself, “how do my references stack up?” Reference checks can make or break an employer’s decision. In fact, in my years of consulting with HR directors, recruiters and hiring managers across the globe, I have learned that they will revoke an offer if a candidate’s references fall short of their expectations. Do not underestimate the importance of having a strong list of references.

Here are 3 tips and guidelines to help you with your job references strategy:

  1. Choose your professional references wisely.  Supervisors, and team leaders serve as strong professional references because they can speak directly to the value you offer, your professional attributes, work ethic and can share insight on your personality. If your reference list does not include management level roles, it can send a message that your departures were less than pleasant. A coworker may be suitable if they can attest to more than just your dates of employment; direct reports, or those that you mentored who can speak to your leadership skills and peers  that can  illustrate your interpersonal skills may also be suitable. Former clients or business acquaintances are acceptable to use as well. Avoid listing family unless you worked for them. Personal references (also known as character references) might include clergy, or volunteer leaders. College students and recent grads have a bit more flexibility to use personal references from volunteer work, coaches, instructors, and internships. Most employers expect to see at least three professional references and one to two personal references. It may be advantageous to list more in both categories in the event that they cannot reach some of your contacts.
  1. Contact your references before you begin your job search. Moreover, maintain contact during, as well as after you land a job.It is important that they be aware you are in the market for a new job especially if it has been a while since you have been in touch. Plus they may even send prospects your way when they learn you are looking. Confirm that you have their best phone numbers, emails and address. Chances are that you have a strong enough relationship with them that you can be confident that they will promptly respond to inquiries; politely asking them to do so cannot hurt. Provide them with your updated resume so  they may become familiar with any new skills you have developed as well as recent accomplishments. Maintain contact throughout your job search informing them when you have landed interviews and for what positions. Provide job descriptions and company information and so that they can tailor their answers specific to the objectives and core values of each. After you land a job, contact your references to thank them regardless of whether they are contacted. Nurture your relationships and offer to help them when they need it.
  1. List your references on a separate sheet, not on your resume. This is for privacy reasons; your contacts most likely do not want their contact information touted out on job boards for everyone to see. Also, it is a standard resume “rule”; keep the content of your resume customized to each job description. On your reference list provide first and last name, title, company, phone number(s), email address and mailing address. By the way, you may also avoid stating “References Available Upon Request” on your resume.

Print out copies of your list and bring them to each interview along with copies of your resume. If the interviewer does not request your references, offer them up. This shows that you have nothing to hide, and you are confident as to how they will deliver.

You may check out a sample references list and other job-winning tips, tools and resources here.

About the Author

Sally Calloway

As a Certified Professional Career Coach, Expert Resume Writer and Employment Trends Analyst, Sally Calloway has discovered new rules, and little-known, proven strategies that every job seeker needs to know. Throughout her 15-year span of career development experience, Sally has collaborated and consulted with human resources professionals and recruiters across the globe, and with renowned organizations including Disney and MGM International. In her former role, Calloway served as the College director of career services for eight years. She taught career success classes and provided career services to thousands of students and graduates helping them land internships and employment despite the downturn of the employment economy. Currently as an author, speaker career coach, and expert resume writer she coaches and mentors job seekers of all levels from recent college graduates to C-level executives, and former military personnel. Coach Sally has transformed thousands of resumes into job-winning machines that recruiters rave about through her powerful “value-stacking” resume building technique. Her revolutionary job interview techniques help candidates interview with ease and confidence, land offers on the spot, and more money. Sally Calloway has a passion for helping job seekers effectively illustrate their accomplishments on their resume and communicate their value with confidence in interviews so that they can achieve their career dreams. For a free resume critique, you may email your resume as a Word attachment to coachsally49@gmail.com For speaking inquiries, Sally Calloway may be contacted via email at: coachsally49@gmail.com