At some point in the hiring process, a recruiter, hiring manager or human resources manager will be asking for references. Don’t be misled by the internet thinking that people will find everything they need to know about you online and not ask for references. This is still an important part of checking out any job-seeking executive. Recruiters expect to hear raving comments from a reference. Only use someone you can rely on to sing your p raises.
Building your reference list
When asking a person to be a reference, find out what they are most comfortable speaking about. Consider the perspective they will be coming from, i.e., coworker, boss, a person you managed, etc. if that person is a coworker would they talk about how easy it is to work with you? Or, if it is your boss, how well you take direction and have initiative? Common sense dictates that if you had an argument with your boss and quit, that you don’t use him as a reference. Find other bosses or supervisors in your past that can sing your praises. Be sensitive to a potential reference, making sure they realize they have the option not to be included in your reference list.
Sometimes people will ask you to write what you want them to say so they know what you
need them to showcase about your working relationship. You don’t want to put words in their mouth, just the general idea of what skills, talents, accomplishments, and leadership style that this person can report on your behalf. In preparation, help them recall specific instances that relate to your working relationship. This will refresh the skill, talent or accomplishment in their minds. You could also email them a bulleted list of achievements that directly relate to the work you did together.
Never, never, never put a person on your reference list whom you have not spoken with and verified they would like to be a reference for you. You want everyone on your list to be informed of your job search, your career target and what you expect them to confirm.
To help the hiring manager get an overall perspective of who you are and what you can do, include a boss, a colleague and a person you managed in your list of references. Also, be prepared for recruiters to ask for additional references that are not on your list. Yes, many times a recruiter will ask your references, “who else do you know who worked with John?” Consider the next level of references that are connected to the people you have on your list to make sure they are prepared and willing to be interviewed by a hiring manager. You may need to recommend to your references, “if you are asked for someone who can verify my strengths in XX, Bill Smith is willing to speak to a hiring manager about that.”
The reference sample included in this post gives you some insight into how you may want to construct your reference sheet.