References, why they matter

referencesYes, it is true.  You can now leave “References available upon request” off of your resume.  But you might still need references in case an employer requests them.  Many people in HR don’t call references anymore because you usually get name, date and serial number but there still are some and some hiring managers who like them.

I mention this now because I do not think people are taking much care in preparing their references these days.  When it was more common nothing was usually gained by calling a reference.  But recently I have had some friends in the recruiting field get some interesting feedback from references that their candidate’s provided.  My first thought was “what idiot sends a company the name and number of someone without vetting them first?”

So here is the process I would follow….

Identify people who you think would be a good professional reference for you.  Ideally they have managed you, been managed by you or they were your customer.  Personal references are OK but we want the goods on your work history, not how you acted in Church or at family reunions.

Contact your potential references.  Shoot them an email then follow-up with a phone call.  This is a great time to renew those old networking contacts.  Start with something like “I am pursuing other employment opportunities and would like to know if you would be comfortable being a professional reference for me?”  Then when you follow up by phone you could ask them “what would you say is my biggest weakness?”  You want to know before a company hears it.  You might even decide to not put them on your list.

Contact them again when you actually send their information to a company as a reference.  It is usually helpful if they know what position you are applying for so they can tailor their responses accordingly.

Lastly, keep them informed about your job search, especially when it ends.  Even if you don’t need or use them be sure to thank them for being willing.  Also, stay in touch with these people, odds are you will need them again.


True friends say good things behind your back and bad things to your face.

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