In order to have a successful search, we know that job seekers should spend time working on their resume, networking, and brushing up on their interviewing skills. However, even the most thorough job seekers tend to forget about one of the most important aspects of their search: obtaining references. Regardless of how interested an employer is in hiring you, what your references say about you can make or break that potential job offer. Keep these tips in mind when thinking about who your professional references will be.
- Contact potential references early on in your search. You don’t want to get called in for an interview and then have to scramble to put your reference list together. You need to make sure everyone on your list has agreed to be a reference for you ahead of time!
- Don’t assume that everyone you ask will provide a good reference. Unless they are willing to say wonderful things about you, you do not want them as a reference! A negative or ambivalent reference is not going to help you land a position.
- Try to choose different “categories” of references. Think about asking supervisors, colleagues, professors, and even people who have worked for you. They will be able to speak about different aspects of your professional background, and their insight can illustrate your various skills and attributes.
- Keep your references in the loop. Let them know exactly what positions you have applied and/or interviewed for. If an employer should contact them, you never want your references to be caught off guard.
- Remember that it is okay to be direct with your references. If you think they have a strong feel for your leadership skills, let them know that you would like them to incorporate this into the feedback they give to the employer. Tell them what you were asked about at your job interviews so they have a better feel for what the employer is looking for.
- Don’t forget to say thank you! Thank your references for their time and positive reviews of your skills. Regardless of how many times they were actually contacted by an employer, they were willing to help with your search, and for that you will want to show your appreciation.
This is just a basic list of what to keep in mind while trying to obtain professional references. For additional assistance with your job search, contact AIU's Career Services department.