Ask yourself, “What ‘s the purpose of a reference?” If you think that a reference is for someone to say great things about you, think again.
There are two fundamental reasons for a reference:
First, to validate the basic information you provided about your work history: Title, length of service, compensation, job responsibilities and function, reporting relationship, reason for leaving and other essential job related facts. Almost no company will provide performance or personal data. There is little you can do to influence this factual information. Information on your resume, in LinkedIn, social media and the company data must be the same. Any differences and your resume will be tossed in the trash. It’s too much trouble for companies to problem solve the discrepancies while there are other candidates who don’t have an issue.
Second, to provide information about the content and value of your prior work. This reference takes the form of professional or supervisory managers that you usually are asked to provide. These are managers who are most knowledgeable about your work/performance. Past bosses are the most requested. Here are some ways to optimize the value of these references:
- The higher the boss, the greater the value in the eyes of the hiring organization. Officers are the best since they have a wider view of your contribution. If you had a problem with your direct boss, see if you can move up the organizational ladder for a better review.
- Check with your references to make sure they are willing to provide a positive reference for you. Some managers are reluctant or can’t, for whatever reason.
- Of those managers that agree, provide them with an outline of the job you are pursuing and the key responsibilities you are to assume. That will give them a good idea of the key questions they may get.
- MAJOR POINT: Refresh their memories about the performance and results you achieved in their organization. Most managers will remember some but not all of your contributions
- MAJOR POINT: Suggest that you send them an outline of the key items of the new job in parallel with the key items of past results from their organization that supports your candidacy
- MAJOR POINT: Send them the key talking points you want them to give. Thank them for their help and support. Tell them that you appreciate their efforts on your behalf and you’ll let them know how it turns out.
Try not to give the same references to several organizations at the same time. Hold back your references until after you interview. You’ll want to save your references for the opportunities you really want to pursue, after you have interviewed with the new organization. Don’t overuse important references with jobs you later decide you’re not interested in.
References are the last step in the job search process. Use them wisely and effectively.
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