References can be a powerful tool in your job search. Hiring managers use references as a way to determine whether or not a candidate is truly a good fit, which means your list can make or break your chances of getting an offer. According to a CareerBuilder survey, nearly 70 percent of employers have changed their minds about a candidate based on a conversation with a reference. Of that 70 percent, nearly half said the conversation led to a less-than-favorable opinion, while one-third said their opinion improved. Given the importance of references to your career trajectory, who should you ask to be a reference?
Criteria for Choosing References
It can be easy to default to former supervisors when compiling a list of references, but ideally, you want to create a list of people who have unique perspectives on working with you. Think about people from different levels of leadership. Supervisors should be included, but you can also include peers, your boss’s boss (if you worked closely on projects), someone who worked for you, vendors, etc. As you consider who to draw from, keep the following in mind:
- Keep it fresh. Old references can be effective, but memories fade over time and hopefully, you’ve grown and developed over the years. Hiring managers could view older references as a red flag that your recent work isn’t up to par.
- Industry relevance can make a difference. If industry-specific knowledge and experience are important, choose a reference from that industry.
- Draw from your entire network. If you want to show you are a well-rounded person, include a reference from outside your working life. If you’ve spent years volunteering, for example, don’t be afraid to include your volunteer supervisor at the end of your list.
Always provide the number of references the hiring manager specifically asks for, but don’t be afraid to include a few more. This will give the hiring manager a better picture of you are; it will also keep the process moving forward if one or two of your references prove hard to reach.
Who to Leave off Your List
As you consider references, be sure to avoid these categories of people at all costs:
- Family: No one expects relatives to be objective, even if they are distant relatives.
- Friends: Do not include friends who have never actually worked with you, even if they happen to be the CEO of a major corporation.
- Supervisors who fired you: Even if you left with dignity, do not ever include a supervisor who had to fire you.
- Anyone you have not asked: Do not assume someone will act as a reference for you. Always get their permission.
References can solidify a hiring manager’s opinion of you – or change their mind. Compile your list thoughtfully to ensure your references give you a boost. If you are an engineer or technology professional in the Southeast searching out new opportunities and challenges for your career, and you are ready to work with a recruiter to jumpstart your search, contact the recruiting experts at Selectek today.