Many of us either remember ourselves or are told by others that there used to be times when all residents knew each other in a given community. While that might still hold true in some smaller communities today, the big urban centers that a majority of the population lives in now, are pastures of a different kind. Global economic growth has made job markets to expand, bringing in an ever widening work force in numbers. As a result, gone are those days when everybody knew everybody else in the community or job market.
This has necessitated employers to look for solid and valid references from applicants. Unless you are applying from within a company to an inside position, you need to have a resume reference bank of your own.
It is with some very easy strokes of a pen or with a few keyboard keys, that we assure potential employers that â€œReferences are available on requestâ€. However, before assuming a complacent stance that your impeccable credentials would be approved as per your desire by the references cited by you, make sure you do a little homework to create this reference bank.
1. Make A List Complete With All Details
The first important thing to do is to make a list of your solid potential references. These will include professional people like a former boss or co-worker, if you have worked before, and a teacher or mentor if you are new to the workforce. You may start by making a list of potential references and start contacting them one by one to make a final list to your satisfaction. In this list, you must include clearly all names, designations or titles, company names, addresses, email addresses, social media accounts, and phone numbers of your reference contacts. Remember that work places are dynamic and so are professionals, so you have to keep this list current by making timely updates about them.
Number of references: It is common knowledge that usually employers ask for three references. I would suggest that you keep a list of at least five references handy. You never know when one of them might decide to take off to Hawaii for a vacation and leave you in the lurch. The other reason is that you might have worked in different industries and one of them might give you a more relevant reference over others, relative to your present job search area.
2. Ask Them And Take Their Permission
After you have finalized a list of your solid contacts, you have to inform them that they are in your list and whether it is okay with them to be in it. Most would readily agree if you had a good rapport with them in the past. But thatâ€™s not all.
When a new job application starts from you and you decide to cite certain references, you have to ask them again and get permission to do so. Doing this gives you a two fold advantage. Things might have changed at Mr. Smithâ€™s organization and he might not be working there anymore like pointed out in #1 above or he might still be there but in a new position. Second, your current communication prepares him mentally to be ready to receive a call about you. It will be very unprofessional on your part to let him be surprised by a call about you out of nowhere. In addition, asking permission makes it clear whether they have a professional confidentiality policy and might be limited in their description about you to others.
Sometimes, it is useful to get a reference letter from your past employer. Now this depends on place to place. If you have worked there or if itâ€™s an educational institution, go ahead and get one. The only problem with letters might be that they get dated after a while, but they are still good testimony.
3. Discuss About What They Think Of You
It is always useful when you are asking permission as explained in #2 above, to also discuss with your professional reference contact about what your new employer may ask in an interview. This way, youâ€™ll find out what light your reference sees you in. You might discuss things like how you were useful in certain areas while you worked there – things like customer service, production schedules, increasing sales, designing custom software among others. You might have assumed that your contact holds similar opinions about your capabilities and skills as you do for yourself, but discussing such issues will give you a fresh perspective as to where you stand with him/her. It will also prepare the other person to give relevant information to your new employer if called upon to do so.
4. Online Presence
The employment world has changed since you and I applied for our previous jobs a few years ago. Now words like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter have started to shape our work (and for many, personal) lives. It should be safe to assume that if you are keeping pace with times in the job market, you must already have accounts on at least the most prominent social networking platforms by now. If so, it is sincerely hoped that none of these accounts is gleefully displaying some of your â€˜misadventuresâ€™ in their full glory. In present times, your online presence is a reference in itself. Google yourself and find out for yourself what a potential employer might see about you as many of them are taking this route now. (As an example, Google my name – Mona Samar – and observe what comes up and what impression it might create on a potential employer).
5. Donâ€™t Go Overboard In An Interview
While itâ€™s nice to take pride in explaining how your references will vouch for your credibility during a job interview, avoid going overboard. If such a discussion comes around in an interview, do not go on and on about how your references would jump over each other to hire you back at any cost. Remain dignified in keeping with the occasion and cross your fingers (not literally though). It is because your references are, without doubt, in a position of authority. When called upon to talk about you, theyâ€™ll almost certainly use their words very carefully in keeping with their own position versus when you had a heart to heart with them. So it is not advisable to raise outlandish expectations of a potential employer but at the same time firmly maintain your credible qualities.
6. Never Forget To Thank Your References & Contacts
Your references do not stand to gain much from making you look like the last surviving perfect candidate for any job, yet they do their best to make you look job worthy. On the other hand, you have to gain a lot from their testimonial that might help you put bread (and butter) on your table. The least you owe them after your interview is a nice warm handwritten thank you note or card. Thatâ€™s in addition to any email if you have already sent one. Make double sure that you do it even if you were not able to land that job.
An important reference is for keeps for your whole work life. Also, how about sending a relevant best wishes card once a year – like on Christmas or any other occasion that they celebrate? After all, you still go to the pains of sending a card to Cousin Maggie each year and she responds only once in a while.
7. Maintain Network For Future References
Never underestimate what a difference your reference made in your job selection, if you were offered one. The job market being in its present state, it wonâ€™t be far fetched to assume that you might consider another career change (or are forced to) sometime in future. That will take you back to the whole process discussed above. But would you do it only when the need comes along? Certainly not, because you have to maintain you professional references network on an ongoing basis – else you would be seen as a self serving person only.
On a positive note, if you have a â€˜healthyâ€™ online presence on social networks, send requests to your reference contacts to connect with them. It will become the most convenient way for you to get updated about them – as for them also to know more about you – and also to keep you in constant touch with them.