Many jobseekers think about their references only when they are in the offer stage. But the proactive jobseeker uses references as a marketing tool. The right references can push an average finalist to frontrunner. Furthermore, even the happily content employee should be proactive and have a list of references ready for three purposes:
1) in this market you might unexpectedly become a jobseeker;
2) you can use references as testimonials to argue for that bonus or promotion, not just a new job; and
3) what your references say and your ability to compile good references serve as an audit of your career to date. If you don’t have a ready list of references, it is a signal to more closely manage your career.
Here are 3 tips as you compile your reference list:
Confirm that your references want to give you a reference. Call them and ask what they would say. Coach them if you want them to talk about your analytical skills or your management potential. If they haven’t worked with you for awhile remind them exactly what you worked on.
Confirm the name, title and contact info of your references. Find out how they wish to be contacted and give them advance notice if you can about who will be calling and when.
Have references who are your peers as well as who report into you. Most people only list supervisors or people above them who have managed their work. Yes, you will need those references. However, the more experienced the candidate, the more likely that a reference check will encompass various reporting levels. Peers can tell an employer how a candidate was perceived by colleagues and how effective a team player the candidate was. Direct reports give insight into a candidate’s management style. References at different levels give an employer a more comprehensive view of the candidate. When I worked in retained search I insisted on all three types of references: supervisors, peers and direct reports.