Professional references are an important part of the job search process, and one that is often overlooked. Having strong references can make or break you in the professional world. Take some time to learn more about references and the important part they play in your job search.
A professional reference is someone who knows you on a work-basis and can talk about your job-related skills and qualifications. It is different than a personal reference, in which someone speaks about your character. A professional reference is someone who has observed you in a work setting, such as a former employer, supervisor, colleague or client, and can recommend you for employment. If your work experience is limited, you could use a former professor, advisor or coach as long as they can attest to your work-related skills and abilities.
The reference check can be the deciding factor in a job search once it’s narrowed down to a few candidates. A study by OfficeTeam found that hiring managers eliminated about 21% of candidates from consideration after contacting their professional references. Spend the time needed to create a strong list of professional references using the following five tips:
- Choose carefully. Choose references that can talk directly about your professional skills, experience, and accomplishments in a positive manner. Stay away from selecting people with impressive job titles but who don’t know your work ability. Unsure who to ask, make a potential list and review the questions listed in References: The Keys to Choosing and Using the Best Job References in your Job Search that an employer might ask your reference.
- Get permission. Call or email your potential references ahead of time to ask if they will provide a professional recommendation for you. If unsure about their willingness to act as a reference, do not use them. Forward your resume so that your references have your most current work history.
- Provide accurate information. Verify the name, title, company, address, daytime phone number and email address for your references and keep this information updated. Prepare a list of your references ahead of time, separate from your resume, to have ready when requested by an employer.
- Think ahead. Employers may also contact people who are not listed on your reference list, especially recent employers or those in your network. Be prepared for questions and try to remain on good terms with your past supervisors and coworkers.
- Thank your references. Be sure to thank those who have agreed to act as a professional reference and keep them updated on your job search. If appropriate, offer to help them out or act as a professional reference as well.