Reference checks can often be an over looked step in the interview process. Maybe it’s because some folks actually do get job offers without checking a candidate’s previous employment? Even if that’s the case, you should not rest on your laurels and think the Job Gods are going to overlook your past performance and land you the perfect next gig. Judgment day is upon you and you better make sure you make nice and make right any past job performance indiscretions and get those reference contacts in order.
Asking for a job reference from someone from your work past is like tapping into a work family. Some people may like you some people may hate you but it’s best to know who will say what about you when you are requested to provide proof of how well you play with others! If you are the type who will wait until you are asked to provide a list of references you are making a BIG mistake. That list, like your resume should be readily updated and available to provide upon request to a prospective employer. Most people scramble to pull a list together which usually only includes one or two supervisors but that is also a mistake. Unless you worked solo or took direction from one person your entire career, you need to cultivate a list of ALL your professional references that include, your peers, subordinates and internal as well as external clients or customers.
Whether you think anyone will call all of these folks is anyone’s guess. It’s far worse not to be prepared and is well, unprofessional. You should provide references where maintain and amicable and current working relationship with those you ask to put in a good word for you. That means, don’t include someone if you have not spoken to him or her in several years! Facebook friends or Twitter followers do not count! Make sure you provide contact information for people you’ve done business with in the past 18 months. This implies you are actively engaging with people you still have a professional relationship with and not with someone who vaguely remembers your name or what you did for them years ago.
A good reference list should include the following:
- A current list of at least 2-3 past supervisors assuming you worked for more than one person in the last 5 years. You can include your former supervisor from a prior job especially if your job search is confidential.
- You should have at least 3 solid peer-to-peer references that include people in your team where you shared the same reporting relationship or, co-workers from other departments who are considered part of your team. Make sure to include someone you worked on an internal project or initiative together who can speak to how well you play in the sandbox.
- You should have at least 2 solid subordinate references as well. This could include people who may have reported to you or, who worked in a lower capacity within your group even though you did not have direct supervision over their work. This list could include your boss’s assistant or the receptionist- so remember, be nice!
- And, last but not least remember to include internal and/or external clients or customers. This list should include people that you worked with in other departments who may be superior to you or as a peer. This could include external clients from different departments that you may have serviced in a business partner role or perhaps assisted as one of your internal clients. It could also include vendors, external customers and clients.
It’s always best to be prepared and make sure you give your references a heads up by asking them permission and by letting them know about the role and the company you are applying to. Give them as much specifics about the role and company you are applying. Your reference can also prove a valuable asset and help you vet the company and position to make sure you are making a good decision. Remember references can work both ways and if you know how to leverage your professional relationships, it can work in your favor when and if you do get a job offer.
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