I'm looking for:

Who to Choose and How to Prep Your References

You open your inbox and see that you’ve made it to the final round interview stage. Hooray!

You skim through the recruiter’s email, trying to find what you consider the most important information —- scheduling your last interviews.

But you come across something that sparks a little panic. You need to provide several references.

Who are you going to pick? How do you know if they’ll say good things about you?

The reality is you don’t want to be waiting until this point to find references. You should have a shortlist of people to contact at all times.

So, in this article, we will explain who you should use as references and how you can prep them, and share a few dos and don’ts to help you sail through to an offer.

Who should you use as a reference?

As a general rule of thumb, the best people to use as references are past managers. A manager’s reference is ultimately what the people reading the references want to hear from. Managers have the most credibility and have the ability to tell the reader of the reference what you like to manage. They also have overlooked your work and see how you work with other people.

If you can’t use a manager, try finding a team lead or someone you worked closely with. You want whoever you pick to be able to speak to your work in a positive light.

And while you can’t guarantee what these references say about you, you can ask them questions when you ask for a reference. Hop on the phone and ask them what they might say about your greatest strengths and weaknesses. If they put you in the middle of the pack, that’s probably a sign not to pick that person.

You want someone genuinely excited about the new role you might get and enthusiastic about recommending you to the company you’re applying to.

3 key things to provide to your references

Once someone has agreed to be a reference for you, there are a couple of things you can do to prepare them for their chat with the hiring manager.

  1. Send them the job description – Your reference should know exactly what job you’re applying for and the type of person the company is looking for. Reviewing the roles and responsibilities of this new potential job will give them an idea of what to highlight in the conversation and what anecdotes about their work with you to share.
  1. Send them your resume – References should have your resume in front of them when they speak to a hiring manager. This will help them fill any memory gaps and apply what they know from your resume to the hiring manager’s questions. You might also ask them to emphasize specific projects you’ve completed that you know the hiring manager cares about from your previous interactions with them.
  1. Update them on what you’ve been doing – Sometimes, your references may not have worked with you in a while. Use this as an opportunity to share new things you’ve been working on, tools you’ve learned, or leadership roles you might’ve taken on.

This will really help if the hiring manager asks them a question like, “Can you tell me about ____’s Azure experience?” While you may not have used Azure when you worked with your reference, but the reference can say, “I personally haven’t worked with them on an Azure project, but I know that at [X company], where they’re at now, they’ve really run with it.”

Other dos and don’ts

DO ask your references to be honest. As hard as we try, no one is perfect. References can rave about you but ask them not to seem disingenuous.

After they talk about your strengths, ask them to present a legitimate weakness. They should seem like a real reference — not a best friend. Keep in mind that your references can gauge the hiring manager’s reaction and report back to you, helping you ensure this position is the right fit.

DON’T be guarded with your references. It hurts you. Hiring managers want to speak with references, and not sharing them can seem suspicious.

If you’re concerned about a recruiting agency calling your references and wasting their time, simply ask them to hold off. But don’t tell the company you’re interviewing with that you don’t want them to call your references until you’re hired.

Make your references rock-solid

References can really make or break your chances of getting hired. So even if these extra steps seem tedious, they’re worth the time and effort.

Schedule a quick call to go over the job description, your resume, and your current experience. Leave time for questions. And make the process as easy as possible for your references. That way, they can present you in a great light and will be happy to do it again if you switch jobs in a few years.

Photo Credit: Canva

| |