A bad reference is worse than no reference at all. In this competitive job market you have to have the best references possible to land your dream job.
A reference check will confirm what you’re claiming to be true in your cover letter and resume – but this check may also uncover things you haven’t mentioned. It goes without saying you need to be honest in your resume, but you also need to be smart when it comes to choosing the references you provide for your background and qualifications checks.
Even if you don’t have any work experience, you still have people who can serve as references: teachers, mentors, coaches, or any other person who can provide information related to your work ethic and background.
If you have work experience, or you’ve been an intern, then your go-to reference should be someone from the immediate job environment that knows you enough to offer a clear and representative picture of who you are to your prospective manager.
Don’t wait until a HR manager asks for references to start making your phone calls. Even before you formally start your job hunting you should have 5 to 6 references selected, and you need to make sure that you have informed them that you’ve selected them as references so they can be ready to represent you in a positive light to your future employer.
In and of itself, this is something a HR manager likes to see: a person who acts proactively and sees a step ahead, organizing what would be asked of them before it is. It is a great trick to create a good first impression during the job interview.
Let your reference know
Don’t ever assume that someone is eager to spend their time talking about you if they’re not prepared for it or if you didn’t have the etiquette to ask them first.
Contact your references and see if they’re willing to be your reference for a job you’re applying for. If they are happy to help, that’s great, but if you sense they don’t know you all that well or they have a misinterpreted picture of your skills and qualifications, then opt for another reference. A bad reference could break your hiring prospects, so be extra careful.
LinkedIn offers plenty of room for networking and maintaining professional relationships with past and potential professional contacts.
Use it extensively to reap all the networking benefits and ensure that if you need a former employer or manager to act as a reference they will have you fresh in their mind and paint a positive image of you without second thoughts.
Written reference letters
A phone reference check could go well, but if your written reference letter is vague it could do more harm than good. Ask your reference to list and describe particular skills and strengths and not simply blurt out a random set of positive traits that could describe anyone. Above all, make sure that the quality of your reference is reflected in the quality of the letter from that person. If you hand over a letter of reference that’s filled with spelling errors, it will imply that your reference isn’t really a qualified professional themselves, and it will completely undermine your credibility.
Implement these tips and your reference check will boost your possibilities of getting your dream job. Good luck!
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