DerrJones Recruiting Solutions

Employment References:
Don't Leave Your References to Chance!

Employment references, if handled correctly, can tell a prospective employer all they need to know about your on the job performance.

If you're looking for a new opportunity, you'll need to provide some strong employment references to your prospective employer. Too often, this list is pulled together without much thought.

We'll show you how to build a strong list of references - and how to get your references prepared for a reference call.

Developing Your Employment References List

You should be prepared to provide the following references:

  • 2 direct managers - people who you reported into; preferably current and previous
  • 2 peers
  • 2 direct reports, if you are pursuing a management opportunity
  • 2 customer references (sales professionals)

These employment references should all be reasonably current. We understand that you might not include your most recent boss if you're currently employed. But, if you can't provide any recent references, this is a strong indication that you have some current performance issues or personality conflicts that you don't want to reveal. You'll have to work hard to change this perception!

If you are currently in transition, your two most recent direct managers should be on your list. If they're not, you'll again be raising a question around your performance.

The following information should be provided for each reference:

  • Full name of the referee
  • The referee's job title when you worked together
  • Reporting relationship between you and the referee
  • How long you worked with this referee
  • Specific skill areas the referee will be able to address
  • Referee's current information: job title, current employer, current contact information. For contact information, supply the following:
  1. Email address
  2. Daytime phone number
  3. Mailing address

The purpose of providing this information is to allow the organization checking your references to tailor their questions to fit the relationship as well as to put the information they receive into context.

Your reference list should be separate from your resume. Make sure that you have a separate page that you can hand over upon request. Click on this link for a Sample Reference List from DerrJones.

Preparing Your Employment References

You should ask the individuals you plan to include on your reference list if they are willing to speak to prospective employers on your behalf. You might want to share your resume with your references to refresh their memory about your experience; you might also remind them of key skills that you want communicated to people who inquire about your background.

If you're actively interviewing, you can ask prospective employers and/or recruiters to hold off on checking your references until there is serious interest in your background. You don't want your references bombarded with phone calls to the point that they ask to be removed from your list.

My practice is to check one or two references between the first and second round interview - but hold off on completing all the references until we're getting close to an offer.

Reference Problems

I usually ask candidates if I will be surprised by anything I hear when I check references. In other there anything that I should know before I make that first phone call?

It's generally a good idea to be honest and direct about personality conflicts. Chances are, the person checking your employment references will find out about problems like this from others in the organization. It's best to let them hear about this issue from you. You'll have an opportunity to tell your side of the story.

You'll also raise an eyebrow or two if you quote your company's HR policy that says no one is permitted to provide a reference. If you've got a good track record, this policy should not be an issue.

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