How to Build and Maintain a Strong List of References
While hiring practices are constantly evolving, one piece of the hiring puzzle that still exists is providing prospective employers with references who can speak to the quality of your work and character. 87% of employers surveyed by SHRM said that they conduct pre-employment background and reference checks. Therefore, it is best to have a list of references ready. Below are tips on when to request individuals to be a reference, what information to share with them, and how to maintain a strong reference list.
Who to Ask
Think of three to five people who are able to speak to your professional skills. If your current manager knows that you are applying for other positions, then add them to your drafted list of references. Think of any trusted, discreet co-workers who interact with you professionally and can refer to your skills. If you’re applying for managerial positions, then include someone whom you’ve managed before. If the role is client-facing, then consider including a client who will praise the support and knowledge that you provide. Ultimately, you want to include people who will rave about you and the work that you perform.
Reach Out in Advance
Build in some buffer time to hear back from your selected references. If time allows, reach out a week or two before you plan to start applying for jobs. If you’re applying for a job with a tight deadline, it’s ideal to reach out at least two to three days before the deadline. Take into consideration the fact that they might be traveling or may not have the bandwidth to offer a reference at this time. Wait until you have heard back before including them as a reference.
Share Relevant Information
When you are asking individuals to be a reference, share some information about the position(s). If it is one specific role at a specific company, then tell them the company’s name and the exact title of the position for which you are applying. If you are applying to numerous positions at a variety of companies, then let them know that it is more general. When it is general, give them an idea of the departments and position levels.
Also, highlight some of the main duties and responsibilities that you would be performing. Furthermore, refresh their memory by mentioning some of the projects that you’ve performed that relate to the positions.
Confirm Their Information
Make sure that you have accurate information. On your references list, you will need to include their name, title, current company, company’s address, email, and phone number. Ask them to verify that the information you have is up-to-date. They may have a new job title, changed companies, or updated their preferred contact information.
Stay in Touch
We all live busy lives, but stay in touch with the individuals on your list of references. That way, when you reach out to them asking for a referral, it will seem more natural. You can stay connected by sharing any exciting updates or projects, celebrating their successes that they share on social media, and occasionally meeting up for coffee.
At the end of the day, you want references who can speak about your unique skills and will commend your qualities. Maintaining a relationship with your references will make it easier for you while you’re actively job searching, because they will already know a bit about what you’re currently focusing on.
– Mary-kate Grohoski, Sales Manager
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