Your references are an important component of your job search. They are the people who will vouch for your character, skills and experience, and ultimately help you land the job. Usually the employer asks for references when they are seriously considering you for a position. Therefore it’s important to plan ahead, get your ducks in a row and prepare a robust list of current references who can attest to your abilities and expertise.
Contact each person you are requesting as a reference, and get their permission in advance of using their name. Verify their contact information including the spelling of their name. Make sure they are comfortable acting as a reference for you, and if you detect hesitation look elsewhere.
Let your references know what type of job you are targeting and give them a copy of your resume. This will help them tailor the letter of reference to the relevant skills for the position and be better prepared for the questions they may be asked by potential employers.
Make sure your references are reliable and reachable. Choose wisely people you’ve worked for and with who can honestly and positively describe your communications skills, work ethic, and expertise. Your references don’t all need to be high-level supervisors. CEOs might be impressive references on paper, but in reality they may be too busy or difficult to get hold of to be effective.
Request a reference from past and present employers, colleagues, or even people who’ve worked for you and can speak positively about your leadership skills. Also consider asking faculty members or advisers who know your academic ability, teamwork, reliability, and communication skills. Don’t list family or friends who only know you socially – limit it to work-related and professional contacts only.
Mind the Details
List the full contact information for each reference, including their job title and employer. You could also add a brief description of your relationship with the reference if it isn’t obvious from their job title. Double-check phone numbers and email addresses to make sure your list is accurate. You don’t want a hiring manager getting a wrong number or bounced email when checking your references.
Make your list of references a separate document that you give to employers upon request. Include your name and contact information at the top of the page, just as it appears on your resume.
Don’t list references on your resume or put “References available upon request,” as this is a given and wastes valuable resume space. Don’t include the reference list when you send your resume unless it was requested. Bring your list of references to an interview.
Keep the people on your reference list apprised of your job search, so they know where you are in the process and who might be contacting them soon. Use LinkedIn to stay in contact with your network online and keep them up-to-date. When you get a new job, remember to thank your references for their assistance.