References are so important when applying for a job. Many people disregard the importance of references or simply don’t understand how to use references properly. I can’t tell you how many times candidates have had no idea what references are relevant to the job they are applying for. For example when applying for an office position, don’t give your recruiter a reference from your first job at a bakery. It’s not relevant because (1) it was 10 years ago, and (2) the fact that you can bake good bread and smile at customers does not help you in an advanced office position. There is nothing wrong with working at a bakery but it’s just not a relevant reference.
A second common response I get from candidates is the 10-minute story about why they couldn’t supply me with a reference or references from the most recent jobs on their resume. NOTE: If there was bad blood between you and your last employer and you make up a crazy explanation – STOP. It is an extremely awkward time for the both of us and the more complicated your explanation, the less we believe. Make it simple and honest. Things got bad between you and your last employer. Life happens and sometimes you didn’t leave your last employer happy but save the stories. No one will believe you unless your explanation is simple and to the point.
My third beef is the reference list that goes on forever. I can tell you without exaggeration, I had a candidate who gave me a reference list so long it took THREE pages. This is too much information. Make it tight, recent and pay attention to the 4 W’s (who, what, where, why). I do not want a list that gives me 15 references. It is a waste of my time and yours. When you apply for a new job, supply only those references that are relevant to the position.
The number one rule in applying for work is to be organized. Don’t just throw references out there that aren’t relevant. Be thoughtful in every step of the process – it might take a bit more time preparing your resume, but it will save you much more time in the end. If you are confused on what references might be relevant, that is what I am here for! Recruiters will help in the whole process.
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