I am always a little surprised when I conduct a bad reference since the candidate/employee is the one who is deciding who I get to talk – as a Recruiter, it’s definitely happened.
Most companies take the reference portion of the interview process seriously and it’s your time as a candidate to have someone else make you shine. Having someone speak positively on your professional behalf doesn’t have to be a game of chance. Here is what I tell job seekers when they are preparing for the reference stage.C
Contact Your References:
Give them a heads up – call them! Anytime you hand over someone’s contact information, they should be aware that this has happened and be ready for a call. More than that, they should understand what company will be calling and what job they are calling about. If you can tell them a little bit about who is going to call them, even better!
Get your stories straight. It doesn’t work out well when your reference has no idea what your title was and uses “Admin or something” (true story) when you’re applying for an Accounting & Finance role. Make sure your reference can speak to what you did accurately.
Remind them of your “shinning moments”. It’s hard enough for us to remember our own accomplishments in our career, don’t expect your references to remember. Remind them about times that you excelled and skills that you possess so they can relay them back to the caller effectively.
Make sure it’s a recent connection. I conducted a reference check the other day and the lady on the other end needed me to explain who I was talking about 4 different ways before it clicked. Her first response after that was “it’s been over 10 years since I’ve worked with him and even then, I barely knew him – not sure what I can say about him?” I can no longer trust that that reference has any ability to speak to your current set of skills so the reference becomes obsolete. It also makes me wonder why you haven’t made connections that are more relevant over the last ten years.
Get the right reference. The above tips will only work if you are providing a genuine and legitimate reference for employers to speak with. If you get your friend to pretend to be someone they aren’t (ready for it? True story!) and there’s an experienced reference checker on the other line, they are going to figure things out pretty quickly and you’re going to knock yourself out of the running immediately. It’s better to be upfront and say that you left your last position under less than ideal circumstances and ask if it’s ok to provide a co-worker or personal reference instead.
If you have the above 5 items checked off, you should feel confident that you’ve done your part in ensuring you get the positive reference you need. Now it’s up to you to get the references to the hiring manager or recruiter in a timely manner (usually before being asked) and be prepared to follow up!
Happy job hunting!