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6 Pitfalls to Avoid With Job References

Your references can make or break if you get the job! Have you ever felt that you landed all the interviews, were asked for references and then…. No job offer. It may have come down to your references. Here are 6 pitfalls that may be getting in the way of your dream job.

1. Forgetting to ask permission

Years ago I received a reference check call from a company about a past colleague I had worked with. Sadly, the colleague had not asked me to be his reference and so I was totally caught off guard. I also wasn’t a big fan of his—to put it politely—so I gave a very lukewarm, though professional reference. I definitely wasn’t the best person to supply a reference for this fellow.

Recently I received a call from a company doing a reference check on a coaching client of mine, Ted*. Ted hadn’t informed me he would like me to be one of his references. Fortunately for Ted, I was on his team and gave him a glowing reference and he landed a great job after struggling with unemployment for several years.

It’s important to always ask permission for people to be your reference! And do so right now- no matter where you are in the job search process. Reconnect!

2. Neglecting to prepare your referees

After asking your referees for permission to use them as a reference, you should provide them with more details. It is important to let the people on your reference list know:

  • You are looking for work
  • What companies you are interviewing with
  • What the job description and/or posting is
  • When the company might contact them
  • What strengths/abilities/accomplishments you want them to emphasize

3. Not making it easy for companies to contact your references

On the flip side, you also have to make sure it’s easy for the hiring manager/interviewer to get in touch with your references.

Ensure on your reference list you supply the following information:

  • Referee’s name
  • Referee’s position
  • Referee’s past company and position – if they no longer work at the company you worked at
  • Referee’s email and phone number (including cell)
  • Referee’s time zone – if in a different state, province or country  (including the best time to reach them and how)

If companies have difficulty contacting people, they may move onto the next candidate.

4. Not knowing what your references will say about you

When in doubt – ASK! Ask your references what they will say about:

  • Your strengths
  • Your weaknesses
  • Would they rehire you?

If you didn’t have the best relationship with a former boss, then it’s safe to say you probably shouldn’t use them as a reference. You could instead ask a former colleague that you worked closely with to be your reference, a manager from a different department that knew you well or even one of your former subordinates. There is no rule that says your references have to be your direct managers/supervisors and you shouldn’t feel obligated to include them if it won’t increase your chance of getting hired.

5. Not providing an updated resume

It is important to send them your resume. Why? Again you want to prepare your referees with all the information you can, so they are the best reference for you. As well, it is an opportune time to reconnect and network with these people. In the past my client Barb* reconnected with her references and found out there were job openings in her old company. Barb landed a job this way!

Stress what you want your references to emphasize during the reference check.

6. Overlooking follow-up

Whether you get the job or not, it’s important to let your references know what happened. Why? Well, your references care about you – or maybe they are just curious about the results – but in any case it is important to let them know how you made out. Remember they are part of your network.

And if you get the job, THANK your references. You can do so with a lovely card in the mail, a brief note or even a bouquet of flowers if they are a big part of you getting the job.

Never underestimate the power of your references. They are extremely important to the job search process.

*Client names changed to protect confidentiality

About the Author Mary Kruger

Mary works with overwhelmed professional women who are stuck in their career, by helping them rise above the competition, get the job they truly want and the money they deserve - faster and with less hassle. She specializes in working with mom’s, (she’s a mom too!) - helping them gain balance, clarity and success, taking back their lives as she did with hers. With over 10 years of coaching, Mary has helped more than 1,200 people overcome the isolation, frustration and discouragement job search can bring. Contact Mary on Noomii or her website to find out how she can help you find the job of your dreams.

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