QUESTION: What’s the best way to choose my references and how should I present them?
Your best references are people who can positively elaborate and validate your skills, work ethic, and achievements on the job. This person can be a direct manager, supervisor, colleague, professor, etc. References are usually requested after the interview and emailed on a separate sheet with each person’s name, current company, job title, contact phone and email, and relationship to you.
The best way to choose your references is to ask them what they will say about you when potential employers ask. Select references who effectively communicate your value professionally and positively. Prepare a Reference Page that utilizes the same letterhead as your résumé and cover letter. Include name, job title, company, and contact information for each (three minimum) references.
I recommend that clients think of 2-4 solid professional references, those who have worked with them and can vouch for their strong work ethic. You relatives will always be biased, so professional references tend to carry more weight. However, there is still value in having a personal reference. That friend that has been there through thick and thin for 20 years shows good interpersonal skills.l.
Think about the job you want NEXT and who among your references can best speak to your skills and accomplishments in that role. Then pick your top cheerleaders among that group. I typically list references like this:
Your relationship to person, if not obvious (i.e. Former Manager at X Corp)
References should know your job skills, experience, and character. Over 80% of new hires come from referrals, so if you know someone in the company you’re applying to who can give you a knowledgeable reference, include them! Choose recent managers/bosses you’ve worked under and colleagues familiar with your abilities and character. Present your most recent bosses first; they’ll carry more weight.
References that are relevant to the industry you are applying are best. Always keep an updated master reference list handy that includes the name, job title, employer, and current contact information for quick access when applying to a job. Then when you need it, you can select the ones most applicable. I advise my clients to generate a list of 6-8 good contacts to have on hand.
The best references are managers you reported to in your most recent positions. Also helpful are senior-level colleagues, professional associates, and prestigious civic and business leaders who can attest to your character and skill set. Use full names with credentials (Ph.D., M.D., etc.). Add in the name of their organization and title. Preferred contact information now includes cell and email.
There are two types of references, personal which include friends or neighbors, and work which include current/former supervisors, managers, clients, and vendors. Professional and academic references fall into the work category and include professors, mentors, association members, etc. Selecting a reference is your way of giving permission to the recruiter to ask them questions. Choose wisely.
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