While the economic climate has been difficult due to COVID, some businesses are starting to bounce back from that by creating more job openings. If you have been looking for a job, you’ve likely made sure that your job search and marketing documents are polished to make a stellar impression. However, there is one marketing document that many professionals don’t give as much attention to as they should: their list of references. Far from being a formality, your references can help sway an undecided hiring manager and land you your dream job. Here are four tips to help you compile a great list of references.
List Different Types of References
When thinking about who to ask to provide you with a reference, it’s important to make sure that your references are varied. Hiring managers will prefer that each reference can provide unique details about you. These are the main types of references:
Personal references or character references: This would come from someone who doesn’t necessarily know you on a professional level, but knows you well enough to describe your character, skills and best attributes. This can be from a coach or volunteer leader, for example. A character reference can be used if you don’t have a lot of professional experience or if you don’t think that you have strong employment references. A hiring manager may or may not ask for a character reference letter, but this is another job search document that is good to have on file just in case. You may find yourself needing this personal or character reference outside of the job search: when applying for schools or rental properties, for example.
Academic references: This type of reference would mostly be used by a new graduate who doesn’t have much experience to provide a professional reference. This could be a reference from a professor or counselor who can speak about your abilities as a student.
Employment or work references: This type of reference would speak to your specific employment experience, including side gigs. This could be a reference from a former employer, co-worker or client.
Professional references: This type of reference would come from someone who knows you on a professional level. This could be a reference from a peer in an industry organization who is able to speak about your professional attributes.
Create a master document with several potential references in each of the categories that best apply to you. Some hiring managers may specify which kind of references they want. If they don’t, keep in mind that, generally, employment and professional references are the most important.
Ask Your Contacts if They Will Provide a Reference
Once you have your list of potential references, you will need to ask them for permission to use them as a reference. Let your contact know what kind of reference you would like them to provide, and make sure that your reference will feel comfortable doing that. You can even describe a certain project or situation that made you think they could provide you with a positive recommendation. If they agree, make sure to get their complete and current contact information, and add it to your master document.
Don’t get offended if someone declines to provide a reference. Some professionals have a personal policy of not providing references, and others operate under a company policy that doesn’t allow them to provide references. Thank them for their consideration and move on to the next possibility on your list.
Customize Your Reference List for a Hiring Manager
The good news is that generally a hiring manager will ask for references near the end of the hiring process. You may already have an idea of what kind of references the hiring manager will be looking for, or they may request specific kinds of references. From your master document, select the amount of references requested that can speak to the skills and experience required for the position.
Before sending the list to the hiring manager, call or email everyone on it to let them know that you will be submitting them as references for a job position. Confirm their current position and contact information. Give them as many details as possible about the job, such as the company name and position title, as well as what details the hiring manager may want to confirm with them. This will help your reference be prepared to give a solid recommendation on your behalf.
[See: 15 Best Remote Working Jobs.]
What to Know When References Aren’t Required
Some companies do not require professional references, but this doesn’t mean that a hiring manager can’t use other ways to find out more about applicants. Many hiring managers use social media to look up job candidates, so make sure that it’s either cleaned up and professionally presentable or set to private.
More from U.S. News