A great reference can make a huge difference in your job search success. For instance, I once had a great candidate that my client company was not excited about. The candidate perceived that there was a roadblock and had one of his references call me to proactively tell me about this candidate. That is impressive. And that is what gets you the job.
What not to do with your references:
1. Don’t give the recruiter or your potential employer a reference who can hardly remember you, or who can't be relied on to call back.
2. Don’t use your college roommate or best friend as a reference. I want a work reference...a relevant reference...a GREAT reference.
What to do for great references that will help you get hired:
1. Make certain that your reference can discuss your fit for the job that you are looking to get.
Once, a candidate's reference told me that all she could say about my sales candidate was that she was very meticulous in her laboratory work. That was great, but it did not speak to her fitness for a sales job. If I'd heard that the candidate showed a lot of leadership, was very persuasive and thrived in interactive meetings--what a difference that would have made.
2. Prepare your references.
Call each reference you'll use for a particular job and remind them of what amazing things you did for them when you worked with or for them: "Hey, Joe, So-and-so may call. I am pursuing X job, so this is what they're looking for. This is very important to me. Please call me once you have talked with the reference checker, and thanks for all your help." Asking them to call you will make the reference more responsive to the “reference call” and then he will give you a heads up about how the process is moving.
3. Collect references throughout your career.
- Before you exit a company, ask your current boss for her personal email and phone number. Stress that you want to stay in touch and ask if you could you use her for a reference in the future.
- When someone who can speak to your skill sets announces that they are leaving for greener pastures…ask them if you can have their personal email and phone number. Explain that you really enjoyed working with them and you want to keep in touch.
- Link up with old contacts and get new contacts on LinkedIn by creating a great LinkedIn profile, joining groups in your career field, and participating in discussions.
- Stay in touch with your references regularly. You can’t expect to get the incredible reference that you are looking for if the reference hasn't heard from you in 5 years. This is all part of the networking process. Every 4-5 months, drop them an email or call. Ask them if there is anything that you can do for them…..Help others, they will definitely help you!