How Carefully Do You Check Your References?

By Martin Buckland - Executive Career Management Professional

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References are an integral part in wrapping up the process of hiring you. Great care and attention should go into the initial selection then briefing of your references. You should have confidence in their ability to articulate a clear message to the hiring authority of your skills assets and deliver a compelling reason why you should be hired.

You could have a great interview but your candidacy could be in jeopardy if any of your references portray a negative picture of you to a future employer. A few years ago a client of mine who is a Canadian senior business leader, let’s call him Dave, was relishing in the limelight as he was undergoing multiple job interviews but failed to receive an offer upon completion of the reference check process. It turns out that one of his references, who was actually the Best Man at Dave’s wedding, was consistently relaying nothing but negative messages each time a reference check was performed, halting the hiring process and damaging Dave’s personal brand.

Your references are your personal brand ambassadors. You should handpick references based on their ability to validate and persuasively sell your candidacy and speak to your career contributions. Company privacy rules may ban former supervisors from speaking in length to future employers. Choose other individuals who worked closely with you and know first-hand of your skills and ability to generate results. Professional references including former peers, clients, professors, and community leaders are preferred over personal contacts (unless otherwise directed by the hiring authority).

The average job seeker should have available three to four references while a more senior executive may be asked for five to seven. Consider compiling a pool of references allowing you to strategically match individuals to each position you are being interviewed for.

After you have compiled your list of references, conduct your own due diligence process. First, Google each reference; future employer’s will! It’s best for both you and your reference to uncover any potential digital dirt ( in advance of an employer search. It may also be advantageous to invest in hiring a reference-verification service to conduct a confidential pre-screen of each individual you have selected. If Dave had utilized a similar provider, he could have chosen an alternate reference and perhaps gone from a multiple interview to a multiple job offer situation.

Stay in touch with your references and always inform them when you are sharing their personal contact information with a potential employer. Provide each reference with a copy of your current resume, the job posting, and the attributes in the posting and career achievements or team projects you would like them to highlight to the potential employer.

Never include references in the body of your resume or submit during the application process. Prepare a separate Reference Page as part of your career portfolio, use the same font and document style as your resume and cover letter, and bring your reference document to each job interview. For each reference include their name and thorough contact information including employer, job title, business address, email, telephone number, and relationship to you (ie. manager, peer, or client).

After a reference check has been completed, send a thank you note to each person contacted by the potential employer and share the outcome with them once the final decision has been made. If the reference is someone you use on a regular basis during your job hunt, consider a thank you gift to show your appreciation for their loyalty and career support.


About the Author:

Martin Buckland is a multi-credentialed Career Management Professional. His industry certifications include: Social Networking Career Strategist; Certified Social Media Career Strategist; Online Professional Networking Strategist; Certified International Job & Career Transition Coach; and Certified Professional Resume Writer.

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