References are usually the last documentation before an offer. Make sure your references communicate what the hiring organization is looking for in a candidate.
Personal references should only be used if you have no work-related experiences. References that are not work-related have little value to a potential employer. All a personal reference can say is, “This is a nice person”. One exception that could make sense is if the reference giver is well known by the hiring manager.
Professional references are directly related to your work experiences and past employers. References usually come from bosses. The higher the level, the higher the value that others ascribe to it. A good reference from a president is usually “worth more” than a good reference from a manager in the same organization.
First, always ask your potential reference if they are willing to provide you a favorable recommendation. Do not put a reference in the awkward position of a surprise telephone call from a potential employer about you, without their permission. If you can, delay giving the names of your references until near the end of the interviewing process. You don’t want multiple companies contacting your references at the same time. It could prove awkward.
Differentiate yourself through your references – Only references can provide valuable information to confirm the positive results you’ve achieved from your past experiences. You need to help your references match the requirements of the new job to your past experiences. Explain to the reference what you’re interviewing for and why. In this way they have the background necessary to contribute value about you to the new organization. Provide your reference with the key duties of the new job and how your prior work ties directly to the work you are seeking. Offer to write up a brief list of talking points, along with the results you have achieved that will link to the job you are pursuing. In that way, the information that your references provide are a direct connection to the requirements of the open job. This will enhance your credibility and advance your candidacy if it’s done the right way, by the right person.
One last point: Employers will usually contact prior companies to check out your documented compensation, dates of hire, separation and any other information they can get. Be careful not to inflate or fabricate information on your resume or during your interviews. If your compensation is XXX, don’t say it’s XXX +10% in the hopes of negotiating a higher income. You may come to regret it. Some companies will Google your name on the web or go into your social media sites to see what’s there and how it compares to what they have been told. If the information is different, you may find it difficult to talk it away, especially if the dates of hire or cause for separation is dissimilar.
Great references can advance your candidacy. Make them work to your advantage.
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