In competitive fields, a hiring decision can depend upon what a candidate’s references have to say. When other critical factors, such as experience and education equal out among two or more candidates, the credibility and faith expressed through qualified references become very important. So it is necessary that you wisely choose your references and that you prepare them to help put you in the best light possible.
First, only choose references who can speak articulately and will sing your praises highly. Always ask their permission and be sure to keep them informed of jobs for which you’re being considered. Fill them in on the essential qualifications so they can give some thought as to what they could say.
Create a “References” document. For a more professional look, copy and paste your résumé contact heading at the top. Create two columns. Under the first column, list three to five professional references. Provide as much professional contact information as possible. This way if an employer cannot reach them by phone, perhaps email will work better. Under the second column, succinctly describe the nature of the relationship, such as “Supervised my work for seven years at XYZ Company.” This is especially helpful for any reference relationship for which employment and other circumstances have changed over time.
Only provide references when requested. But as with anything in your job search, be prepared. Bring your list into interviews, but keep it in your portfolio or folder just in case you’re asked for it.
Finally, remember to thank anyone who has provided a reference for you. They have taken the time to help you out, something for which gratitude should always be expressed. As we all know, the courtesy associated with showing appreciation keeps relationships strong and reciprocal.