Getting Solid References

By Julailah Wahid

Most companies request for job references before hiring you, whether before an interview or right after one. While not all employers are swayed by references, a negative reference can be a very strong indication that they shouldn’t proceed with an applicant.

What another professional says on your behalf as a reference could make or break a job offer. As references are usually colleagues or supervisors who have worked with you, recruiters may rely significantly on their opinions to gain insight on your work performance and personal character.

Here’s how you can gather the right references:

Go beyond your direct supervisor
Unless a recruiter adamantly requests for your direct supervisor’s contact details, you may choose to provide a list of references that include your internal clients and even managers from other departments whom you’ve worked with.

If you want the recruiter to get different perspectives, a 360-degree scope revolving your supervisors, colleagues and those who’ve reported to you can be listed as references. Your goal is to find someone who loves your work and who will give positive, if not glowing feedback on your capabilities.

Evidently, listing someone related to you is inadvisable as recruiters are aware that he or she will be inclined to mention only spectacular things about you.

Inform your references
Your former boss might have given you a good performance appraisal but it doesn't mean that he’s willing to recommend you for another job. He might actually have been a caustic manager but was simply trying to be nice, and he will probably feel comfortable saying something rotten over the phone.

To avoid undesirable responses, speak to your references about listing them down, as well as the [offered] job description. If you want them to vouch for specific achievements, email them a list of projects that you have accomplished. Having your detailed résumé in front of them will ensure that they give more accurate and comprehensive responses.

Stay updated and accurate
Your former colleagues and superiors might have left right after you, so it’s important to keep your reference list updated with their latest office telephone numbers.

Stay informed about your contacts and industry through social media, and keep in regular contact with your business network.

Be honest
If you know that your direct supervisor will say bad things about you and the recruiter asks only for this individual’s contact, be upfront about the situation.

Instead of simply "warning" the recruiter, provide another reference who is on the same level of hierarchy as your former boss. For instance, an honest statement could be: “Here is his phone number. However, I must admit that we didn’t agree on many issues. If you'd like another viewpoint, here is another contact named Hazel. She was the manager of the research department and I worked with her a lot as well."

Don’t lie about whom your former boss was – everyone is connected in the corporate world and a quick call to the Human Resources department of a former workplace could easily unveil your job history.

On a final note
Remember to thank your references, whether or not you managed to clinch that job offer. Showing your appreciation towards their efforts and recommendations will sustain your relationship with them. And like the saying goes, “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”, being helpful to those whom you’ve benefitted from will definitely help you be remembered for future opportunities.

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