Job references -- and the people who make them -- are often overlooked in the job search. They are an afterthought, if thought of at all. But your job references support you when it counts.
Let's check the ways you can help your references help you.
Keep current contact information for your references
Honestly, this should not be a problem. But it is.
Here's where people get messed up: the contact information they use for their references is corporate information. The company telephone number. The company cell phone number. The company e-mail address. This doesn't work.
Too often, the corporate contact information changes from reorganizations, new jobs within a company, people leaving the company but not telling you (so now how do you contact them?) or by people getting laid off. The business world moves too fast and keeping the corporate contact information correct is tough.
Instead, get and keep the current reference cell phone number. Plus the reference's personal e-mail address that you know is checked often by your reference (people can have multiple e-mail addresses they check once a week...that won't work for a reference...).
The contact information is less likely to change and will also show a hiring manager that you have a personal relationship with your references.
Immediately after a request for references, call or e-mail your references to let them know
Time is of the essence here. If a hiring manager is asking for job references, they will often call the same day as the interview for the reference while the interview is still fresh on their minds. You can't wait a day to casually e-mail your references and let them know they might be called; you have to call them, leave them voice mails, and e-mail them as soon as you can after you provide the contact information to the hiring manager.
Give your references the right information for the reference
The key to getting the great reference, as compared to the merely good one, is that the reference knows how to target their knowledge of you to the person calling for the reference.
Here's the key information you need to give your reference about the position:
- The company name. They may know something about the company or someone in it and that will help you. Plus, when they hear the name of the company for the reference call, it will get their head in the right place for the call.
- The job title. Your reference needs to know you are going after a System Engineer position even though you worked with your reference when you were a Programmer. This allows your reference to show, for example, that you were doing System Engineer work while a Programmer, lessening the risk of selecting you for the hiring manager.
- The contact. You need to tell your reference who will be contacting them if you know of the specific person. Or at least the department doing the calling. That way when they hear "John Smith" on the phone along with the company, your reference will immediately shift into reference mode.
- The job description. You need to e-mail the job description to your reference. Every starting point for an interview is the job description and so it is for your reference. This way they can use the job description as part of the targeting of your work.
- The interview. You have to tell your reference what happened in the interview so they can help your cause. What questions were asked? What interview stories about your work did you tell? What is your impression of the hiring manager? What management style do you think the manager uses to manage people? All of this is great context so that when a reference question is asked, your reference has context about the question to give the right answer.
And, if you are a reference for someone, make sure you get this information from your person so you can refer with confidence ;>))
Get feedback from your reference
Finally, get feedback from your reference. First, not re-contacting your reference about what the resolution was for your interview is simply rude. This person is doing you a great service and you need to acknowledge and thank your reference for their help whether they get the job or not.
But there is another important reason to get feedback from your reference: you get more insight into the position and can better decide to accept or decline it.
Did the questions of the reference match up to your impressions of the interview? If you had the hiring manager talking to your manager reference, did your reference think that you and the hiring manager would work well together? How did the hiring manager treat your colleague and co-worker references? Did you get any more insights into management style?
How about the job? Was there more insights into the role? Something that wasn't in the job description? What were the most important questions asked about the position to the reference?
Your reference is a great source of more information about the company, manager and role you are looking to nail. By getting feedback from your reference, you add to your knowledge as well. But you need to ask.
The job reference is the last step in the job search process (versus the decision to accept a job). In a tight competition, how you treat your references can often help make that final push to make you the candidate of choice for the job.