Sealing the Deal With Strong References

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With the current challenges of today’s job market where there may be a couple of hundred applicants for each position, it vital to pull out every possible tool to ensure that you stand out from the rest. Just presenting your knowledge, skills, and abilities along with perfectly pressed clothes and a new haircut are not enough for the most discerning employers to make a determination on which candidate they would like to hire for the position anymore. The market is flooded with cookie cutter applicants all competing for the same position. What many candidates forget about are strong references. They assume that it is their eloquent answers and their MBA from a respected college that will land them the job and that the references are an inconsequential hurdle to complete prior to their start date. This is not so. Good or poor references can give you the needed edge or be a deal breaker for most employers.

You must have your references in a Word document, printed out, and ready to hand over or to e-mail an employer immediately. Taking too long to provide the information can cost you the job.

Obtaining your references should not be work for the employer. Ensure that all of the references you have included on your list are current and that you have the correct name, address, and phone numbers for the employer to contact. Furthermore, you should personally contact your references and tell them that “Joe Smith from ABC Corporation” will be calling them for a reference. This way your previous employer is prepared and doesn’t get the proverbial “deer in the headlights” look when being asked for a reference. This will give them a chance to pull your file and/or contact Human Resources to ensure that they are allowed to provide more than your name, rank, and serial number.

Never ever use personal references. Employers are not interested in what your friends, family , or church members think of you. This is an old and outdated method for providing references.
Include professional references in addition to the references for your last three employers. Professional references that were outside your traditional job actually assist your candidacy and are suggested. For example, if you were the President for the local business networking chapter, Fundraising Captain for the American Heart Association Ball, or the Director for a community clean-up, you have excellent references that indicate your commitment to outstanding service from community leaders that can attest to your work ethic.

Never burn your bridges. It is so important that you leave each position on good terms. If you did not, you should openly discuss the situation with your interviewer and deliver the facts in the best possible light. Such as, “It was a mutual understanding that I needed to move forward with my career path as I exhausted all available options at that particular organization.” If you truly were terminated, the chances are good that all the employer will provide are your dates of employment, position title, and whether or not you are eligible for re-hire.