So, there is this job you are very excited about. You have written the cover letter, checked to see that you fit most of the requirements and you are sure that you stand a good chance. You are now at the point of tailoring your CV to the job advert but when you get to the section of references you just don’t know who to include. The following questions are running through your mind: Should you tell your current supervisor that your career interests now lie else where? Should you include someone from a job you did decades ago?
Your job references can range from peers, to clients/customers, co-workers, supervisor and your current boss. Be very careful about who you choose to include. For example, a peer may end up getting the job you wanted if your skills and experiences are similar. A current boss might not be so keen on letting you go. Any prospective employer will understand if you don’t include a current employer so do not sweat it. So long as you include at least one supervisor you have worked with, you are fine. Before listing some one as a reference, ask your self a series of questions.
Question 1: Is the person updated about your current job and career trajectory?
Update a reference about your career path. (Ex) You could have started your career as an accountant and s/he knew you as an (epic) accountant. However, if you have since changed career paths and are now interviewing for an IT position, update your reference about how your career has progressed. This is because the only thing she will know about you is how good you were as an accountant. You have to update her on how you leveraged your accounting skills to switch to ICT. This will help her support you better.
Question 2: Do you have a good relationship?
Good relationships with your references are everything. If you are not sure of your relationship with someone, scrap them off. Ask yourself the following questions: Can the person vouch for you? Do they believe in your abilities? How do they speak to others about you? Do they admire what you have been able to accomplish in your career? Do they understand your strengths and weakness? Can the person speak with authority about your strengths?
Have absolute faith in your references’ ability to sell your abilities to a potential employer. A Good job reference should give nothing but enthusiastic praise for you.
Question 3: Can s/he mentor you?
A job reference should be able to advise you about the job application and whether it is a good fit for you. It is no use adding someone who has no idea what the job involves and therefore can’t advise you whatsoever about the job opportunity. Raise your expectations from the people you include as references. This will improve the quality of your references.
Question 4: What if I was laid off/fired?
If you were fired for a reason such as poor performance, your employer will be willing to give factual information to a prospective boss. Ask for a written recommendation if possible. Most employers will be willing to support your next step. If you can’t get a reference from your former company, tell your reference your story on your own terms. There is nothing wrong with saying that you decided to move on for other opportunities (It is the truth any way). Find a reference who can be on your side no matter the circumstances.
Question 5: Is he well placed to give a reference for the job at hand?
You can have many references but not all will be able to give a compelling recommendation on your behalf for the job position you want. Ask yourself who will sell your accomplishments and skills best. This is extremely important when you have had diverse career experiences as already mentioned. You could have met them in different capacities. (Ex)If you had a short stint at a restaurant as a store keeper, then you moved to a bakery as an accounts executive, then you moved to a supermarket as an administrator but the job you want is now as a sales personnel at a bank. You will have to choose who will best give evidence about your ability to sell.
Question 6: What if I absolutely have no job history?
Just because you are looking for your first job should not mean that you cannot have references. References don’t have to come from former jobs. Talk to a lecturer/teacher, people from your volunteering roles, clubs you are involved in, any hobbies like sports, music, etc. Choose your references depending on the job you are applying for. References you choose should be able to talk about your transferable skills which may include team work, problem solving, etc.
How To get stellar references
Getting a reference is easy. Getting stellar job references is difficult but it should be part of your overall job search strategy. You need to be patient and build good relationships with your references. Calling someone out of the blue and hoping for a quick fix will not give you good results. Invest in your references first before you expect to get anything from them.
During your job search, do not leave anything to chance. Choose your references wisely as they might cost you your dream job.