References; a formality, or something to think about?


So you have decided that it’s time for a career change.  You’ve done the resume thing, utilized the contacts in your professional and personal network, gone on interviews and now it looks like you are going to get an offer for your dream job.  Time to pop the champagne, right? Wrong.  Often times there is a “final step” that most us see as a formality, the reference check.

Do references count?

Imagine you are about to buy a new car for the family and a friend of yours has the exact same car.  You query them if they are happy and they give you a half hour talk about how bad their experience has been.  Are you going to buy the car? Considering having work done on your house?  What’s the first thing you do when seeking a contractor? Do you think it’s any different when an employer is looking to hire key staff?  Of course it isn’t.

Don’t be fooled by thinking the hiring decision has been made after the interviews and salary negotiation.   You need to nail the reference check.

How do I put my “best foot forward” with the reference process?

Obviously you shouldn’t attempt to coerce or script what your references say about you.  Any good reference checker will sense that the reference feels unnatural.  But there are steps you can take to make the process go smoother.  Here are some tips that should help:

  • Use the proper references – I am sure that your grandmother, neighbor, and brother-in-law think you are a great candidate, but are they really the best to be a career reference?  A better choice would be to choose references that can vouch for your professional career and accomplishments.    Some good choices include an ex-boss, ex-coworker, and/or previous client.
  • Seek Permission – This may seem obvious, but is often overlooked.  You have an ex-boss that loved your work and has offered to help you, and besides, they probably won’t check references anyway, perfect choice right?  Wrong.  Regardless of your relationship, you still need to contact them and obtain their permission to use them as a reference.
  • Prepare the reference – If at all possible, brief the reference on the specifics of the job.  It will give them some background on what parts of your career to mention and emphasize.  It will also let them know what land mines to look out for.  As an example, you are applying for a “tech lead” role that requires leadership, but very little hands on work.  Do you want your reference going on 20 minutes about how great your java skills are?
  • Compile your references BEFORE you need them – As a general rule, have a list of references prepared before you need them.  It could jinx the deal if it takes days or weeks for you to pull together your list.

In Closure

Don’t think about reference checks as an afterthought or formality.  They do matter.  The process will go smoother if you choose the right references; seek permission to use them, and prepare them with information about the job so that they can provide an accurate well thought out reference.

Got a good job seeking reference story?  Let us know in the comments.

Don’t forget to check out our job board for our current open positions.

Happy Job seeking !




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