Are you updating your resume and putting off creating your list of professional references? There’s so much work that goes into a job hunt that you can forget that creating a list of quality references is a vital step.
However, your contacts will give recruiters a well-rounded perspective about you. It’s an essential step to landing most roles. As a final part of your job search plan, organize your contacts to support each of your resume variations. Not sure who to ask? We’ve got some suggestions below.
Submitting Professional References With Your Job Application
Who to Select as a Reference
Your first impulse might be to select your past coworkers with whom you built close relationships. You know they’re going to say nice things about you. However, recruiters will recognize someone who is simply a work friend and may discount their feedback as biased.
Consider, instead, the job duties of the position you’re applying for. Your prospective employer will most likely be more impressed with a previous leader who can speak to your work ethic and problem-solving abilities. Generally, they’re looking for feedback that you can take constructive criticism well, work productively with different personalities, and take the initiative to problem-solve.
Choose Managers You Worked Closely With
Employers want people who can get things done, so choose a previous manager who can speak personally about your accomplishments. Gather references familiar enough with you and your work ethic to vouch for your abilities. You don’t simply want someone with an impressive title.
Also, be mindful that you want to select a person who is communicative and quick to respond. Someone who is overwhelmed in a new role or is hard to get in touch with should not make the list. Instead, consider asking them to supply a recommendation on LinkedIn, which is much less time-sensitive.
Who Not to Select as a Reference
Personal friends and family shouldn’t be included on your list. Including them may give the impression that you couldn’t find enough professional references.
If you don’t have a long work history, you might have to think outside the box. Consider any volunteer work you’ve completed or community organizations you’ve been a part of. Professors can often speak to your dedication and hard work as well.
As a professional courtesy, though, you always want to ensure that you ask permission before listing a reference.
When to Submit References
Gone are the days of adding “References Upon Request” on your resume. Unless expressly noted in the job posting, you’ll want to hold off on submitting them until they’re requested. Have a separate list of professional references prepared so that you’ll be ready when the time is right!
Another bonus of waiting is giving your references a heads up to expect a call or email. You don’t want them to avoid the call thinking it’s spam. When you contact them, you should let them know a little about the role you’re applying for. Just as you tailor your resume for each position, professional references will often find ways to personalize their feedback for the particular function.
Share Your Career Goals With Your References
Your references are people who want the best for you. Give them the information that they need to support you. While the words and stories should be legitimately theirs, it’s always a good idea to provide them with some details about the prospective job.
This is especially true if you’re in a lengthy job search. You don’t want months to go by between asking them for permission and receiving an unexpected call from a recruiter. References are generally requested towards the final stages of a hiring process. You’ll be able to offer detailed information about who is contacting them and why.
If there are any specific focus questions or skills that the recruiter is looking for, it’s a great chance to share that with the reference. Make a note of any projects or experiences that you’ve referenced. Otherwise, they might not share targeted information that helps a recruiter who is seeking specific skills.
How to Format Your Reference List (Example)
Your reference list of three to five contacts should hold similar formatting to your resume. You want it to be cohesive, with the same colors, fonts, and style. Your references should be in an easy-to-read list. Each reference should be formatted similarly to this example:
Director of Marketing
Greenville Parks Dept.
Lisa was my manager for two years while I was a junior marketing agent with the Greenville Parks Department.
When writing your reference list, make sure to include contact information (name, company, title/position) and a short description of how you know the person. It’s also helpful to highlight any collaborations if you’re listing a coworker. Should you choose to include a direct report, ensure that you note that relationship.
Thank Your References
Ensure that you’re thanking your references for their time with either a handwritten note or an email. An excellent connection can make the difference in landing the job or continuing the job hunt. A quick note to acknowledge their time is always professional and will be appreciated.
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