25 May What They Say Behind Your Back: Get Great References
When you’re looking for a new job, it’s natural to focus on the early steps – fixing your resume, signing up with staffing agencies, searching for job opportunities on career websites. And that is where you should start. But once you’ve gotten interest from potential employers, impressed them with your interview skills and started talking salary . . . don’t forget a crucial step, which is when they ask to contact people who can vouch for you. To get great references means you need to do your homework, have strong relationships and be organized.
Here are tips to help you get great references:
Know the rules. Many companies have policies regarding giving references for former employees. Some will only confirm dates of employment, title, and last salary. While a new employer may be perfectly sympathetic to that, some will push you to provide a greater endorsement of your past.
One option is to find a former boss who is no longer with your prior employer. Simply be clear what their relationship is, usually you can simply list their current employer, and then list their employer, title, and relationship to you when you worked together. Another option is to get a reference from someone who has worked with you in another capacity.
For example, if you had internal clients in your company, who can speak to your professionalism, punctuality, or other skill sets that don’t require knowing you in a managerial relationship. This usually doesn’t go as far as a manager speaking up for you, so do your best to have at leas one former boss as a reference, and an explanation for why you don’t have more.
Get the facts. Don’t put anyone on the spot by asking them exactly what they are going to say, but also don’t leave yourself vulnerable to bad surprise. One solution is to email or call the person and ask if they would be comfortable serving as a reference for you.
If you get anything less than a glowing yes, pause and find out more. Do not blow through a reluctant response. Ask if they have any hesitation, and what you can do to help them get more comfortable.
[bctt tweet=”Or better yet, just move on. Any reference who gives a lukewarm or cagey response, will very likely raise red flags for a new employer.”]
Assuming that you do get an enthusiastic answer, offer to send a quick summary of helpful information. At the very least, send over your resume, or a few lines that state your dates of employment, your titles, and key responsibilities. The last thing you want is for them to have to stutter through a call struggling to remember when you worked together.
Give them a hand. Some people offer references every day, others far less frequently. But either way, people are busy, and helping you look your best is not always a priority. So, in addition to a friendly reminder of your work history, also provide some guidance with regard to what the company might ask.
If you know the company wants to know about your leadership skills, remind the reference about projects you lead or people you managed. On the other hand, be aware that a future employer can ask almost anything they want in a reference check (other than some legally protected issues regarding things like religion or familial status).
Don’t wait. Like most things in life, it’s best to be prepared. Do not put someone on the spot by waiting until the last minute to find a reference. Have several ready to accept a call, so that if they reach out to one, they can simply move on to the next.
Likewise, if someone who is generally available is out of the country on vacation, you’ve got another option. Basically, you want to make the process as easy as possible for everyone.
You need to get great references as a step in your job seeking process.
By the time an employer asks for references, they are almost certainly in a “buy” mode. They like what they see, and they just want to make sure you’re as great as you appear to be. By the way, one thing they will be checking – that what you’ve said on your resume and in the interview is factual. A recent study reported that 58% of employers have found a lie on a resume. So if you get great references and are confident in them, this step doesn’t need to be stressful.