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  • Lori A. Jazvac, MRW

Could Your References Be The Issue?

Updated: Dec 19, 2019

As a jobseeker, a reference page serves as an important tool that you can present to the employer or recruiter at the interview or upon request.

Providing a reference letter at the interview can also impress the employer, quickly highlight value, and maximize candidacy.

My strategy with clients involves creating an updated reference page or portfolio. I also incorporate an impressive quote or testimonial into the résumé. This boosts the candidate's credibility and highlights their performance.

The reference page is a valuable piece in your job search toolkit often overlooked by many jobseekers.
Choose your references wisely. Be proactive! Don't assume anything. Verify the facts and your key supports.
Ask yourself: What can this reference say about me that will enhance my candidacy? If you are unable to answer this question, then rethink your choice of reference.

On a regular basis, I see many jobseekers skip this step or wait until the last minute to confirm their references. My advice? Take action and get up to speed on keeping in touch with your references on a consistent basis and maintain trusted alliances. This will play an important role throughout your job search and career. This is a critical step that if not handled properly can burn bridges and ultimately bypass your chances of landing a solid job offer.

If you want to stay top of mind with the employer, confirm your references from the very beginning and keep them updated.

Here are some quick reference-related tips:

1. Build and maintain a solid and trusted relationship with all your references.

This means initially choosing a reference list comprised of people whom you consider to be your trusted champions. These are the folks who believe in you, have witnessed your work performance, and can positively support your career development. Your references are instrumental in providing feedback about your character, potential, and performance related to your career focus. It will help the employer confirm your fit within the role and organization. Obtain permission first before adding them to your list.

Choosing a list of "champions" will make it easier to build and sustain a mutually respected relationship where both parties can professionally support one another.

Author Harvey Mackey says, “Dig your well before you’re thirsty.” Don’t wait until you’re out of work to develop relationships with your network and then try to seek references.

2. Have 3-4 current, valid, and positive professional references to offer the employer or recruiter.

Choose your references wisely. Ensure that you have a nice, well-rounded list of 3-4 professional references. Your references must be able to speak of your character, skill sets, milestones, and performance in a positive light. If you are a student, consider leveraging an academic or community leadership / volunteer reference. Remember that you are in control of what references you request, select, and maintain.

A reference can offer helpful feedback about your value and performance, allowing the employer to fill in any unanswered questions or gaps. References often represent the last puzzle piece to the job search and can help you seal the deal so that you get an offer. A solid reference list can prevent any job search "setbacks" along the way.

The first telltale sign that you need to question your references is when you have succeeded all the stages of the recruitment/selection process and you experience a delay or issue upon the reference check. In some cases, an unexplained gap or communication breakdown may even occur. This can be prevented by being proactive, verifying your references, and clarifying the type of feedback to expect.

The first telltale sign that you need to question your references is when you have succeeded all the stages of the recruitment/selection process and you experience a delay or issue upon the reference check. In some cases, an unexplained gap or communication breakdown may even occur. This can be prevented by being proactive, verifying your references, and clarifying the type of feedback to expect.

3. Keep your references updated about your career goals, value, and prospects.

Keeping your references updated about your career is vital. This will be beneficial when a prospective employer wants to learn from your references whether you would be a good fit for a certain role and how your work performance stacks up. This will keep you and your references consistently aligned. It helps to show interest in what your references are up to and how you can offer support as well. Relationship building is a two-way street.

4. Remind your references in advance when they can expect a call from a prospective employer.

If you know that you will be getting interviews and the employer or recruiter will be contacting your references, prepare your references in advance so they are not caught off guard or by surprise. You want your references to be comfortable with supporting your candidacy. Nonetheless, you want to inform them on what type of position you are interviewing and suggest how they can help you enhance your candidacy. Positive feedback about your performance as well as reputation management means a lot.

5. Keep the reference page updated with current contact information.

The last thing you want the employer to do is call the reference and get the wrong number in case they have relocated or changed their contact information. Don't assume anything! Have the right information available, including full reference name, title, company name, phone, email, and nature of working relationship. Ensure that you keep this updated and verify the facts from time to time. You can also suggest that your references contact you if their contact information changes. This is essential for the employer or recruiter to easily contact your references and get the necessary information in order to help them make a sound decision.

6. Secure recommendations on LinkedIn from your key references.

Remember employers or recruiters will check your social media presence as well, and often will head to your LinkedIn profile first. This means they can catch a glimpse of your expertise, value, networks, and endorsements as well as testimonials. Garner positive references on LinkedIn, which can boost your credibility and candidacy. Networking regularly on LinkedIn will build your online presence. Mind what you post.

7. Thank your references for validating your experience and performance.

Extend thanks for references provided and be respectful of their time dedicated to supporting your candidacy. Offer professional support to your reference as well.

Note that sometimes, there are references who can only verify your dates of employment and that you worked for XYZ Company. Be respectful of this policy. Choose references who can vouch for your expertise and stellar performance to help you further your career goals. Avoid asking for references from those who seem uncomfortable with the idea for any reason even though they would be able to provide valuable feedback. Leverage your intuition. Everyone has their opinion or values concerning providing references.

8. Have a few backup references just in case.

With increasing career progression and transitions, references can get overused as well or become invalid after a period of time. Some references move or relocate, or you may lose touch with them as career goals and values change. This means it's time to build a more current, stronger reference portfolio.

References are often the final deciding factor so if you show up at the interview without the reference page of references plus a few backup references, this is a huge job search mistake that can prove costly. It can actually reveal that you perhaps fail to take your job search or networking seriously. If you ace the interview process and flunk the reference check, reconsider rethinking your strategy and either revamping the reference list or strengthening your connections with your references.

Avoid making common mistakes like choosing inadequate references, failing to verify your references for long time periods, or not preparing your references in a timely manner. You want to make the reference check process efficient for both yourself, your references, and your prospective employer. Perform your due diligence.

Whatever reference you choose to vouch for your candidacy, know that it is a critical decision to make so be selective in your decision-making. Your references can serve as a valuable support and referral source throughout your job search and career.

Lori Jazvac is the Founder / Award-Winning Master Resume Writer / Certified Career Transition Coach of Creative Horizons Communications -- a Halton-based firm providing holistic career services to jobseekers across the globe while positioning them for their next career milestone.

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