Job References:  Help Your References Give You A Good Recommendation

Even if someone thinks highly of you and wants to give you a good recommendation, not telling them ahead of time that people will be calling and asking about you does not give them an opportunity to give you the best recommendation they can. 

Rule 1:  Always ask permission to list someone as a job reference.

Asking permission is considered good business etiquette.  Besides, how can you possibly expect them to give you a good recommendation when they haven't been forewarned and are not prepared?

But just asking them to be your reference isn't enough; you need to help them become a good reference so that they can boost your odds of getting the job offer. 

Rule 2:  Send your reference a letter (a) thanking him (or her) for being your reference, (b) disclosing certain information you think is most important (see (1) below, along with (c) a copy of your resume and broadcast cover letter.

In the letter, you should --

(1) Tell your reference about the types of positions you are seeking and in what industries you want to work.  If you know the names of people who might be calling them, go ahead and give them this information;

(2)  Refresh your reference's memory regarding your qualifications, even if you currently work with the person.   Remind him of the positions you held, if you were promoted, and go over your most recent responsibilities and accomplishments, dates of employment, why you left thecompany's employment, and remind him of how you benefited the company, e.g., "sold X number of widgets in the last quarter of 1999 setting a new company record."  

(3)  Optional:  Send a list of questions that you think might be asked.  These questions might be industry-specific or specific to the position that you seek.

Note that if you're on friendly terms with your reference and feel comfortable doing so, you can ask them not to disclose certain information.  For example, the question "What was her beginning and ending salary" is often asked.  If you don't want that information disclosed, ask your reference to answer this question with, "I'm sorry, we don't disclose that information."

When employers call a reference, they typically want to learn more about you in the following areas:

(1)   Your job responsibilities / duties
(2)   Your major weaknesses and strengths
(3)   Your overall job performance and quality of work
(4)   Your ability to get along with your co-workers (and customers)
(5)   Your major accomplishments
(6)   Your dates of employment and eligibility for rehire

But they also ask a variety of other questions. 

Give your reference as much information about the above topics as you possibly can so that he / she has the opportunity to think about and prepare for the moment when someone calls and asks about you. Chances are he will use the very information you provided him with to give you a glowing recommendation when people start phoning and asking about you.

Next topic:  Clean up your reputation
Reference Checks  >  Help Your References Give You a Good Recommendation
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