8 Steps to Getting Your Job References Right

job references

Job references are like ecommerce product reviews and ratings. You only buy when the product has good reviews and high ratings. 

But unlike reviews, job references are only provided when asked or when the offer is on the table.

Similarly, an employer wants to know what were you like in the previous job or relevant settings so they can decide whether to hire you or not.

Of course, landing a job is not just that. But, these reference contacts you so painstakingly prepare holds a certain level of power over your success at landing a job.

They are people that had first hand working with you and can attest for your skills and qualification. 

That is why nailing this is quite critical. 

In this article, I will give you a comprehensive guide to job references to elevate your chances of getting hired.

A Step-by-Step Guide with Checklist to Job References

Step 1: Understand what employers want from job references

The first step to success is always to understand before you do.

According to a survey by Monster.com, the interview results from hiring managers showed us what we need to focus on for your references.

The employers rank the following from most to least important information to receive from an applicant’s references.

  • descriptions of past job duties and experience
  • the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses
  • confirmation of job title and dates of employment
  • summary of workplace accomplishments
  • a sense of the candidate’s preferred work culture

Step 2: Understand the employer and job you are applying for

As with all preparation, namely resume writing, preparing for an interview, or preparing job references, you need to know the employer and the job you’re hunting.

  • Company culture
  • What they value most in employees
  • Job expectations
  • Skills required for the job
  • Additional bonus skills to have

Once you understand, then it leads us to the next step.

Step 3: List down names of past colleagues / subordinates / superiors that are highly relevant to the required position

The primary objective of understanding what is required is so that you get the right references that match the job you are applying for.

Generally, the best job references are

  • Current bosses
  • Former bosses
  • Professors
  • Academic Advisor
  • Supervisor
  • Friends that are in the same profession
  • Clients

What if this is your first job, and you have no references?

Yes, you have. You can always consider your professor, dean, or academic advisor to be your reference contact.

Step 4: Identify who is NOT the right candidate for job references

Here are people you should strike out from your list.

  • Those who have fired you
  • Friends, roommates or partner
  • Family members
  • Someone you’ve not asked permission

Step 5: Ask permission & get your job references 

Don’t ever let your references caught off guard. You should

  • Approach potential references with clear goals and specificity
  • Ring them up to have more clear communication
  • Be clear of the role you are applying for 
  • Be direct in what you want and expect

Here’s an interesting phone conversation test you can do to decide if you can use any of the nominated references.

Firstly, after you’re done with the formalities before you end the call, throw them this question, “Can I count on you to give me a favourable reference if the company calls you?

  • Very briefly, if you get a hesitation or an awkward pause before they answer, remove them from your job references. 
  • If the “Yes, of course, you can.” flows out smoothly in a natural tone, then you be sure they are good job references.

Step 6: Prepare details

The job references included in your resume should consist of the following

  • full name
  • job title
  • daytime phone numbers
  • email
  • nature of your relationship

Companies typically will ask for two references. If not asked, three job references is a good number to give.

Step 7: Prepare for interviews about your job references

Let’s admit it. 

Many candidates get caught off guard when they were asked, “Will you please provide a list of professional references we can contact?”

Avoid that by preparing the list upfront.

Once provided, trust that recruiters will respect the privacy policy and proper handling of personal data. It is the recruiter’s job to ensure such sensitive information—like contact number and email, job position, company, and more—is being kept confidential and the privacy of individuals are being respected.

Step 8: Be courteous and say thank you

You will express your gratitude to those who agreed to serve as references even if the employer did not contact them.

Also, you may want to keep them updated on your job search progress.

On the other hand, you can also offer to return the favour if needed.

Going Online With Your References

Do you know the importance of your online personal branding today? 

What you say, post, or comment or what others say about you online can bring severe repercussions on your professional life.

Consider these.

In 2018, a survey showed that employers check a candidate on social platforms online before making hiring decisions (source: Business News Daily).

Some of the findings include

  • Most employers take LinkedIn profile as a secondary resume
  • Employers background-check on a candidate on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to get a sense of the type of person they are
  • 47% of the employers said they would not call a person for an interview if they do not have an online presence. One of the reasons behind this is that it implies they have something to hide.
  • 50% of employers want to make sure the candidate has a professional online persona
  • 58% do social screenings to look for supporting information on the candidate’s qualification for the job
  • 34% want to see what others post about the candidate

In 2019, studies showed that employers are beginning to trust social platforms as one of the reliable hiring channels, specifically LinkedIn. (source: EveryoneSocial.com)

Today, social recruiting is a thing.

So be sure to have at least a LinkedIn profile.

LinkedIn Online References

The best way to have your job references online is via LinkedIn Recommendations.

Here’s my example.

online job references

Finally

Job references can make or break your job search. Therefore, you need to get it right. Be prepared. 

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Amos Tay

Amos Tay

Amos Tay is the Senior Partner of Hatch Asia. He is a Gallup-Certified CliftonStrength Coach and lead our executive search, coaching and expand our partnership development across the region.

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