Manage Your References - And Your Job Prospects - With These 10 Simple Steps
So you’ve completed the first round of interviews –
and perhaps the second – with flying colors towards that
cherished new job. At this point, your prospective new
employer will begin to check the quality of your references and
recommendations from previous employers. These
recommendations will make-or-break your prospects – have you
done your due diligence in ensuring that they will be an asset, not
albatross, to your job application?
About half of all references that get checked receive an assessment of
mediocre-to-poor, according to Heidi M. Allison, Managing Director of
Allison & Taylor Reference Checking Inc. So it is very possible
that the great job you lost out on at the last moment had nothing to do
with your lack of skills, or being overqualified. It could have had
more to do with what one of your references or past employers said
about you. If you are concerned that someone, somewhere, might be
giving you a less-than-stellar review, there is a one-in-two chance
that you are right. That's a frightening percentage when your
livelihood is at stake.
So, you are well advised to take more control of your career momentum
by finding out precisely what each of your potential references will
say about you. When you know who is going to say what about you, you
can pass on your best references with greater confidence. Also, you may
well have the opportunity to prevent your negative references from
offering up negative commentary about you. Here are ten
winning ways to utilize your references:
1. Make a list of all
your prospective references. Begin with the first
job that is relevant in management of your career today. You need to
select those who have carefully observed your job performance. Your
references need to have seen you in action, hopefully performing well
in adverse conditions. But beware: whether you list them or not, many
(if not all) of your past employers will be contacted. Be sure to
gather all important contact data about every potential reference,
including: name, title, company, address, telephone/fax number, and
e-mail address. (You may be asked to provide this data by a prospective
employer.) Other individuals that may make useful references
include colleagues, subordinates, and suppliers and clients.
2. Narrow the list.
After you have made your list of references, select
those that you feel will be most willing to give you an excellent
report. A typical list of references should include five to ten names,
depending on the amount of experience a candidate has accumulated.
3. Contact each reference
personally. Send each reference a note
(visiting them personally, if possible, is even better) stating that
you are seeking new employment and that you would like to use them as a
reference. Be sure to share with them your current resume and let them
know of the position you are applying for, as well as the type of
qualities the company is likely seeking. Give them the impression that
their reference is critical to your obtaining the job.
4. Confirm your personal
information. Refresh your
reference’s memory regarding the position you held while
working with them. Also, it is a good idea to visit the HR Department
and verify that all information in your personnel file is correct.
5. Conduct a personal
exit interview with your references. Review your
past responsibilities and remind them of tangible successes you
achieved with them/the company. Review with each reference
what they will say in response to questions regarding your strengths
and weaknesses. Try to learn what your references are going to say
about you. Do not take any criticism personally, or become defensive -
if they feel you are receptive to their comments regarding
self-improvement, it may lead them to say you are open-minded and that
you strive to grow professionally. To sum up, one of the key skills in
the workplace is effective communication - your reference will feel
comfortable stating you are a good communicator if you have filled them
in on the “who, why, what and when” and have
appeared receptive to their comments.
6. Be prepared ahead of
time. It pays to take the time early in your
job search to identify and prepare your references. The last thing you
want is to lose out on a good position because you did not have your
references organized, validated and prioritized. You can even
use your references as effective networking tools in asking them to
keep your name out in front of those with whom they
associate. Again, tell your references what you have been
doing since the last time you worked with them. Not only is this the
courteous thing to do; it also keeps them updated on your career. Any
reference that is well informed about the progression of your career
will be a much better reference. Lastly, ask them if they know of any
current job openings in your field.
7. Pay attention to
detail. Always check to be sure of the correct
telephone number, area code & company name when giving out
references. With today's mergers and technology changes, things can
change daily. Should you list an incorrect telephone number, or if a
reference has taken a position elsewhere, it will appear as though you
are out of touch with your references.
8. Communicate with your
references at “crunch
time”. When a specific offer is on the horizon
references know the company and that you will be using them as a
reference. They will feel more comfortable giving out information about
you or to return a prospective employer’s call in a more
timely fashion if you have forewarned them ahead of time.
9. Follow-up with your
references. When you get your new position, make
sure you call each reference and thank them for the role they played.
Going forward, keep them posted about your career – they will
appreciate your staying in touch and will be more likely to serve as a
reference once again at a later date.
10. Check your references
professionally. Don’t leave the
impact of your references to chance. If you are not 100%
convinced that your references and past employers will relay positive
comments about you to prospective employers, have them checked out. A
professional employment verification and reference-checking firm can
either put your mind at ease, or supply you with the critical
information and evidence that has been blocking your job searching
Heidi M. Allison is the
Managing Director of Allisontaylor.com (an
Allison & Taylor Company), the nation's oldest professional
employment verification and reference checking firm. Please visit their
site at www.Allisontaylor.com
or call 800.890.5645 to learn more about
this valuable service.
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