Of all the challenges of finding a new job, providing your references shouldn't be one of them. It's one of the areas over which you actually can exert some control. No matter how stellar your resume is, or how well you interview, if you have just lukewarm recommendations from former managers and colleagues, you'll greatly reduce your ability of being hired. Use the following steps to tip the scale in your favor during the reference check.
Definitely assume that your references will be checked . Have the names ready for an interviewer who asks. Most reputable organizations spend quite a bit of time speaking with those to whom you refer to as insightful to your work ethics and skills.
Ask permission . Do not list someone as a reference without first asking their permission. It's basic business etiquette to give your references the "heads up" that you're in the job market. (Frankly, one of your references may ask you to come back to work for them). A savvy individual will be able to tell from the tone of the conversation with a contact if that person will serve as a good reference. If your work history is short, consider professors, supervisors from volunteer work and internships as sources for references.
Provide reinforcement . Include people who can support facts and provide examples of achievements listed on your resume. Since hiring managers typically prefer to speak with past supervisors, questions regarding your tangible skills, interpersonal skills and abilities to show poise under pressure may all require your reference to provide examples as to how you performed in these areas. Prepare your references to answer these questions.
Make sure your information is current . You are not the only one who may have changed jobs. Your references may have changed jobs or moved since your last contact. Make sure you have their current phone numbers, job titles, and company addresses.
Keep your references updated . It is imperative that each person listed as a reference has a current copy of your resume. You, nor they, want them to sound poorly prepared for a phone call from your potential future employer. Spend time speaking to each person in your professional network to ensure they understand why you would be a good match for the position to which you are applying.
Match references to job requirements . Just as you may customize your resume to a specific position, so should you choose the references that can best illustrate the skills required for the position to which you are applying.
The reference check process is a positive sign . Most employers reserve reference checking for those candidates who have the highest potential of being hired. A truly wise professional understands the power that past performance is an accurate indicator of future performance. Leaders and hiring managers know it too!