Outlined below are easy-to-follow steps that every job seeker should take when selecting references:
- Start by compiling a list of people you’ve actually worked with on a daily basis within the last 5 to 7 years – 8 to 10 names should be sufficient. (All you really need are 3 or 4 people willing to be references; but, if more agree, a longer list is fine.)
- Make sure your list contains variety, in terms of the nature of your associations with prospective references. Your list should include, if possible, at least one superior, one peer, and one subordinate. Their association with you should also cover a span of time so the prospective employer isn’t just contacting people from your most recent job.
- Rank your list of prospective references based on how familiar they really are with the jobs you have held, their responsibilities, and whether or not they would be likely to have an opinion about your performance. (It might be nice to have a senior VP on your list of references; but, if he or she saw you only once a month, how much will that person really know about your day-to-day job performance?)
- As you’re deciding who your best references are, try to put yourself in the prospective employer’s shoes and consider whom you would want to talk to if you were responsible for the hiring decision. Ask yourself what you would want to know about you!
- Starting at the top of your list, call or go see each prospective reference and directly ask each person for permission to use him or her as a reference for you. Explain why you’re asking and answer any questions the prospective reference may have.
- If a prospective reference agrees, make doubly sure he or she understands exactly what you’re asking him/her to do: that you don’t want the reference to overstate or understate how well you did your job. Make it clear that all you’re asking is that the reference answer every question as honestly as possibly.
To be continued…