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References – The little things that can make a big difference!

When job hunting, one thing you’ll want to be sure to have secured is a good list of references. Having a few former colleagues or managers attest to your strengths and your potential can be the difference between ultimately being offered your dream job or not. When you ask for references, not only is who you ask key, but how you ask. Follow these simple steps to ensure that your references work for you, and not against you.

Before you start applying for new roles (or working with a staffing agency such as SNI Companies) updating your resume and reference list is the first step. First, make a list of key individuals you’ve worked directly with and had a positive working relationship, from your previous managers, to your co-workers and people you’ve managed in the past. Many times companies will want to speak to individuals who have worked under you if you are being considered for a management role. Subordinate references can attest to your leadership style, how effective you are at developing staff and the type of environment you create as a manager. You’ll want to include 2-3 references for most jobs, however having a couple as back up is never a bad idea.

After you’ve narrowed down your list, your next step is to reach out to the potential references to see if they would be willing and able to be references for you. Call each of the people on your list and ask if they would be comfortable serving as a reference. Ideally, you will be able to convey the type of role you are interviewing for and even the companies that may be calling them. This can help them process how your skills may transfer based on their experience in working with you which should translate in to a more effective reference. One thing to also be mindful of is that many companies have privacy laws where employees are not able to provide detailed work history or reference information beyond the employees start date and end date so you will want to make sure to include references that can go deeper in providing insight in to you as a professional. If the person you’re considering listing as a reference conveys hesitancy in being a reference or says the company does not allow them to confirm anything other than dates of employment we would strongly recommend you move on to someone else because a mediocre or negative reference will almost certainly put your prospective offer in jeopardy. Even a reference where only dates of employment are provided can sometimes be viewed in a negative manner as the perception is you didn’t take the time to confirm that your references were able to provide information to help the prospective hiring manager have what they need to make a hiring decision.

When you are speaking to the potential references and getting their permission for you to list them offer to email them the most current copy of your resume. This makes them feel more prepared; helps ensure consistency in your dates and can refresh their memory of the responsibilities you help while working with them and even some of your accomplishments. Once you have your references lined up, thank everyone for their time and willingness with a handwritten note and be sure to keep open communication with them during your job search.

The final step is to list your references. On a new document you will want to include their name, title, company, telephone number, email address and ideally a brief description of what your relationship was with them. Have the font and format similar to your resume and only include them with your resume if the company asks for references. Almost all companies want references, but if the employer isn’t looking for references, you don’t need to provide them.

Following these simple steps can ensure that references are a positive reflection of you as a professional and not a potential roadblock to your dream job!