Ask A Recruiter: Managing References

Q: Do you have any tips for lining up references? I want to be prepared, but am not sure what the protocol is.

A: It’s great to hear that you want to be prepared when it comes to references. That’s my number one piece of advice in this area: have your references ready ahead of time!

My suggestion is to be prepared to the point that you have the references and their contact information typed out on a piece of paper. Just as you’d have your resume in front of you at an interview, you can bring your references too – either to refer to in the interview, or to hand over to the employer when they ask for it.

Your references should be able to address your performance, productivity and reliability; however, you should avoid asking family and friends to serve as your references. Ideally, your references will be people who are most familiar with your work history and can comment on your day-to-day performance. For example, though it may seem impressive to list the president of your company as a reference, if the person does not remember you clearly or wasn’t involved with your work on a daily basis, they won’t be a good reference. Your current and previous managers are the best references to give. Clients, peers, professors and even subordinates can be appropriate references too.

I also recommend tailoring your references to each job you’re pursuing. For example, if you’re pursuing both a sales position and an account management job, and have experience in both areas, you may want to give different references. For the sales job, you’ll want to give references who can vouch for your successful sales skills, while you may want to give references who can talk about your customer service skills for the account management role.

Once you identify the people you’d like to use as references, it’s important to communicate with them. Let them know what you’re doing, including what type of job you’re interested in and what skills are required, and ask them if they’re willing to be a reference. If they agree, be sure to follow up with them and let them know in advance if someone will be contacting them. That way, if they have moved or are on vacation, you can tell the hiring manager. You don’t want to frustrate someone who wants to hire you.

About the Recruiter
ImageKristen Coppins has 8+ years of experience in the staffing and recruiting industry.  As a Director and member of the management team at Professional Staffing Group (PSG), she oversees the new hire training and development program. Kristen is also a member of ASA’s Continued Education Committee. 

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