Here are 10 tips for assembling a successful reference list.
Ask your references for permission to use their names, and make sure you're asking the right people. Do the people you include as references actually want to give you a reference? Does their schedule permit time to discuss your qualifications? Most importantly, what kind of reference will they be? When it comes to references, neutral is the same as negative, so ask your contacts to be honest: Can the people you ask give you a positive recommendation?
Potential supervisors are not interested in hearing friends or relatives talk about how nice you are. They want simply want to find out: Are you going to deliver the duties of the job? Good reference sources include previous supervisors, co-workers, professors, or advisers. Think outside the box: If you voluntarily coordinated an organization's fund-raising effort, the organization's supervisor could be a great reference. It doesn't matter that you weren't paid.
A reference's name or job title is insignificant compared to the information he or she will provide regarding your strengths and weaknesses. CEO may be a loftier title than supervisor; however, who can better attest to your abilities on a daily basis?
Give each reference a copy of your resume, so he or she has a complete picture of your background. Provide a description of the job to which you are applying. Knowing the duties and responsibilities ahead of time will prepare references for questions they may be asked and help them relate your experience to the potential job.
Contact your references and tell them to anticipate a phone call or e-mail. Tell them the name of the company and the position for which you interviewed. If you know the name of the person who will check your references, offer that information, too.
Were you offered the job? If so, did you accept? When will you start?
Whether or not you accept a job offer, take the time to write each of your references a thank-you note.
Send an e-mail, call, or meet them for lunch on occasion. You may need to call upon them to be references in the future.
Just like resumes become outdated, so do reference lists. As your career builds, keep your reference list up-to-date.
Your references may have been the deciding factor in your job offer. When you are asked to be a reference, say yes.
Adapted from Kelli Robinson, 2013. Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, copyright holder.