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Managing Employment References is Crucial

by Amy Jessop

Imagine that your strong, marketable resume got you the interview, that your interview seemed to go well and that when requested, you confidently offered the employer your references. Then imagine the employer calls you back with the news that they have decided to go with another candidate. Is it possible that your references somehow derailed your job search campaign?

Having solid references lined-up and ready to speak to your skills and qualifications can make a difference to your success. Following these four tips will help you improve your chances:

Choose your references carefully and diligently. Look at who can provide the most relevant information to support your claims to the achievements, skills and experience you are highlighting in your candidacy. Think about former managers, supervisors, team leads that can share in-depth knowledge of your work. Choose strong communicators who can discuss you and your work in an efficient manner revealing your strengths, key elements of your character and fit within the organization.

Consider how each reference can best reinforce your strengths. Put some thought into what skills and accomplishments you wish to highlight and what you would like each reference to say about you. Ensure each reference has the most current copy of your resume and a job description of the position you are interviewing for. Keep in mind that just as you select the most relevant skills and accomplishments you wish to highlight for each job posting, so too can you select your references depending on who can best speak to those skills and accomplishments.

Arrange a time to discuss potential questions with your reference. This could occur in person, over the phone or by video conference. These days, reference questions can be very in-depth with a focus on explaining a situation and how the individual resolved it. So preparing your reference for difficult questions can be imperative to your success. Some potential questions employers might ask are:


  • Under what circumstances did the individual leave the company?
  • In what areas does the individual need to improve?
  • Would you hire them?

What were their greatest achievements? Keep your references in the loop. Effectively managing your references includes ensuring they are not blindsided by a call that they are not prepared for. Keep your references informed about the positions you have applied to, interviews you have had, and employers who have asked for your references’ contact information.
Putting time and energy into references is an important step toward landing the job you want! If you need more information about managing your references or help on any other aspect of your job search, contact one of our Employment Services offices for free support.