A friend of mine was looking to change jobs and was seeking some help on how to prepare for the job hunt and the process that might ensue around references. Securing and providing references is a little tricky and here is what I told him.
References matter a lot in all walks of like. Whether you are hiring or being hired – skilled or unskilled. While for certain positions the risk of not checking references might be fine but for the large majority it is a must.
It is fair to ask for a reference but to maximize the impact of a certain reference there are some critical things to think about. Here are some ways to make your references count.
So how do you go about securing good references that matter and help you.
- For starters, any references from 5 years and beyond don’t matter. That is assuming that you have made strides in your career in the last 5 years. If not then you might need more than just references.
- Run this simple algorithm and make a list of potential references
- For each project (remember not each job but project) list the top 3 people you added value to. This could be customer, a partner, a colleague, a sales or marketing colleague. Note that I highlighted the adding value part – that is to make sure you don’t pick someone you worked with but someone who benefited from working with you.
- For each of those that benefited from you – enlist how they benefited.
- Call each of them (think of this as part of keeping in touch) and make sure that your perception of value they received from you is consistent with what they feel they received. To get an accurate and unbiased description – ask them how they would characterize the value you added – before you tell them what you thought.
- Confirm with them if they would be comfortable being a reference in case you were to pursue a job elsewhere. Also make sure you give them some idea of what kinds of jobs you would be pursuing.
- And the most important part, have this discussion sufficiently in advance, before you actually need a reference.
- When you do pursue a job and need to use one of the references, make sure you provide a wide-ranging set of reference that will showcase your ability to add value to the larger organization. Providing three colleagues who worked with you as part of the same team you were in might not be the best way to showcase the all-round you.
- A final note, if possible, don’t coach the reference to say things the way you would like. As long as they have agreed to be your reference, let them be authentic.
How about getting those references to vouch for you on LinkedIn ?
LinkedIn references are good – but let us be honest, they are not authentic – for obvious reasons. Nobody would really put what they want to say in a public site. You mostly get good/tailored reference statements. You are better off securing references and using them when you need them.