by Claire Nelligan
I once served as a reference for a woman I had worked with closely at my job. I cannot possibly say enough good things about her! She was at the top of her field! Serving as a reference, I failed her miserably. Or did she fail me? I had no idea she planned to use me as a reference. And I did not know she was applying for a job to manage people. As I had never seen her managing subordinates, I couldn’t speak to that skill. No wonder she didn’t get the job. She was a perfect fit, but that wasn’t apparent from the reference I gave!
Help Your Reference Focus
Your references will be asked about some common skills or attributes about you, including:
- Self-management skills
- Strengths and weaknesses
- Ability to work well with others
- Leadership skills
- Productivity and ability to meet deadlines
- Work ethic
Prepare them for these questions. Do you know what your references will say about you? Ask them!
It will also be helpful to give your reference information about your job search, your skills, and updates on your activities since you last worked with or for them.
Create Your Reference List
To make the most out of your references, make sure they are presented well!
The list of references you give employers should look professional. The paper, font type and size should match that of your résumé and cover letter. List reference’s name, job title (or relationship if it’s not clear from the job title), address, telephone number and email address. You may also add a sentence noting what skills or attributes the individual reference is familiar with.
Here is an example of an appropriately arranged reference:
Always have your list of references ready when applying or interviewing for a position.
Do Not Overuse Your References
Employers usually ask for three or four references. Can you come up with six or eight? This will prevent overusing your references. Choose your references based on the skills you want to spotlight for a particular position.
References should be current. Check with them regularly to make sure they haven’t moved of changed telephone numbers or email address. Make it easy for the potential employer to contact your references.
With minimal investment of time and energy you can prepare your references for success. Good luck!
This article first appeared in Career Connection, a newsletter of the WorkForce Center System.
Claire Nelligan is an Employment Program Monitor with the State of Minnesota. She is a Global Career Development Facilitator and teaches résumé writing at Normandale Community College.