What Your Professional References Say about You

Prospective employers often seek professional references to validate the information presented by job candidates in their resumes and cover letters and during the interview process. Most companies prefer at least three references.

While the historical norm has been for companies to contact references following interviews, close to the point of making an offer, a recent trend has been for them to ask for references at an early stage – so it’s important to be prepared.

Why Do You Need References?

Your best references are professionals who can attest to your qualifications for the job being offered. When deciding who to use as a reference, ask yourself, “Can they speak positively about me and my experience?” And remember, you don’t just want them to recommend you. You want them to recommend you for this particular job.

  • Your reference will be called upon to tell the story of your success as an employee. The best accounts have powerful, demonstrative details and focus on tangible, measurable results.
  • Keep your references informed throughout your job search process. This includes contacting them with an update every time you apply for a position. Connect with them and provide details about the job so that, if contacted, they can provide relevant information.
  • If applicable, remind your references of projects you did with or for them that best reflect on the abilities required in your desired position. Ask them to describe details that showcase your skills and reinforce the information on your resume. Basically, you’re providing them with talking points they can use when they speak with your prospective employer.

Who Are Your Best References?

With these guidelines in mind, persons you might consider as professional references include:

  • Coworkers – but be alert to the need for confidentiality and avoid putting them in a compromising position, if your current employer is not aware you are looking elsewhere.
  • Colleagues in your field who work at other companies.
  • Former employers.
  • Professionals with whom you have collaborated on projects or initiatives.
  • Vendors.
  • Customers.

A few more pointers as you select your best references:

  • It’s a good idea to ask someone with a title or responsibilities more senior than yours – or someone very well respected in your field. This places you among the elite professionals in the eyes of your prospective employer.
  • If you’re concerned that a former boss might say something negative, list the HR manager at your former employer. If you’re using a current employer as a reference, find out what the company policy is: Some employers are only permitted to verify dates of employment, job titles and functions.

Line Up all the Details

Prepare a list of references including names, job titles, companies, addresses and contact information. This should complement, but not be part of, your resume. For instance, use the same paper stock, fonts, layout and design so both pieces look equally professional.

For additional guidance and resources on your successful job search process, contact the recruiting experts at Employment Professionals Canada today.