When a potential employer asks you to submit a list of references, you know things are going quite well. In most cases, you won’t be asked to provide references unless you’re one of the top contenders, so take this as a good sign.
Anything but a formality, the references you choose will either reinforce the great impression the hiring manager already had of you or they’ll cause you to be eliminated from the running. Now that you understand the weight your references hold, learn how to handle the process wisely.
Choose a Professional Reference
It’s tempting to choose your mom or your best friend as a reference, because they know you well and have nothing but kind things to say, but unless personal references are specifically requested, they’re a major don’t. Employers want someone who can offer insights on you from a professional prospective, so you need former managers, colleagues, clients or even professors. Anything else will make you look like an amateur or that you have something to hide.
Select Someone Who Will Speak Highly of You
Since a reference has your employment fate in their hands, only ask people to speak on your behalf that you can trust to say kind words. For example, having a former boss in your corner looks great on the surface, but if the person didn’t like you, their input will probably not be glowing and you likely will not get the job.
Ask Permission Before Listing References
Never assume someone is willing to be your reference. Even if you know they’ll say yes, always give your references the courtesy of asking before giving their phone number and email address out to hiring managers. You don’t want to risk offending someone who might be able to help you get a job.
Let Your References Know to Expect a Call
After getting permission from your references, give them a heads-up when you know your potential employer might call. This will let them know they need to answer the phone when an unknown number calls and gives you the opportunity to brief them on the job, so they aren’t caught off guard. Advance warning gives them time to get their thoughts in order, allowing them to avoid having to speak off the cuff.
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