The other day I heard a story about an individual who got a phone call to be a reference for someone they barely have had a relationship with over the past six or seven years. Of course the conversation was not stellar because the individual was not prepared for the interaction and was obviously surprised that she was being asked these questions about an individual who she hadn’t had much to do with in the last few years despite living in relatively close proximity.
I have never contemplated that I needed to remind job seekers about informing their references that they are indeed references for them but consider this particular story as a reminder. If you are planning on using an individual as a reference you must tell them you are doing such. Besides the fact that it is just plain common sense, it is also professional courtesy so that the individual can prepare for the call when it ultimately comes.
By informing the individual that you are using them as a reference you are also providing an opportunity to discuss what you believe should be highlighted in the conversation with the recruiter or search committee. Not all references are day to day friends so it is extremely necessary for the candidate to emphasize what they have been able to accomplish in their career that is pertinent to this particular search.
A robust reference statement can make the difference in a candidate either getting the job or being turned down for the position. Why allow the possibility of a poor phone call happening when you don’t prepare the reference? It is simple common sense and this is the candidate’s opportunity to keep all informed on your job search – a job search that everyone wishes you well with and are delighted to assist if only they knew the current situation and who the players are.
Think about the possibility of a reference not even answering the phone when posed these questions because they might believe it is just one more potential scam? When you are using a person as a reference, you first ask their permission, you detail what job your are seeking and finally you must also keep them informed on how the search is progressing.
References are an integral element of the search process. Many may discount their importance now that LinkedIn has your recommendations on line for all to see but most will agree that it is not just what is said about you but who is saying it that can make a significant difference in a successful search.
When choosing who to include on your roster of references it is wise to create a list of numerous individuals who can assist you, depending on the scope of the potential job. Not every reference is apporpriate for every job search. You should have a person prepared to speak on your behalf at every stop along your career.
A former Board Chair is probably the wisest choice, if indeed you are comfortable with what they may have to say about you. By providing the name of a former Board Chair you are telling the potential new employer that you left your previous job(s) under positive conditions and that they still consider you a valued asset.
It also behooves you to find a prominent name in your field to also be a reference. It never hurts to have a little flash on your roster of references. It is also important to include individuals that you may have teamed up with as a volunteer, a Board Member, a Committee Member or with a specific charity event – it shows that you are a well rounded individual that can succeed in all aspect of life.
When asked by a potential employer to provide a list of references it is a natural instinct to want to provide as many names as possible to illustrate how well respected you are in the community. It is the old – if they want 5 names I will give them at least 10, so they get a positive impression of me. Providing more than 5 names is simple overkill and frankly a waste of time.
If you have a roster of many potential references – choose the individuals who can provide you the most influence on this particular position. It is vital that you put some thought into your reference list and obviously use some common sense and professionalism and keep them informed on where and what you would like them to do for you when that phone call ultimately happens.
Dan Borschke is a Certified Association Executive who has been a CEO for 3 distinct trade associations is his career. He is one of only 230 Association Executives worldwide who has been granted the prestigious designation of Fellow by the Ameerican Society of Association Executives since 1986. He currently is between positions and has written more than 50,000 words and 100 blog postings on the topics of job search and career transition. He can be contacted at: email@example.com.
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