The 5 Things You Need to Ask Those Who Promised to Serve as a Reference

References mean different things to different people these days.  It is usually only requested from the job seeker, as in ‘I’d like to have you serve as a reference,’ or ‘May I add you as a reference for jobs I apply to?’  It is almost never offered by the referrer, and this delicate balance needs to be re-evaluated.

 This article will explore this often-confusing relationship between colleagues, for a job-seeking task that is not utilized as often as it once was.  Professionals, whether job seeking or not, can utilize these perspectives to deepen their relationships with their network and help discover hidden opportunities. 

 The Case for References

Word-of-mouth, as we all know, is the best form of marketing when it comes to getting a job.  Apart from the hiring manager being your friend or relation, positive word-of-mouth demonstrates the positive PR from which any candidate can benefit.

 Here are 5 things that a candidate should ask of or consider from those who have promised to serve as a reference:

 Do not ask your colleague to serve as a reference when you are desperate.  As a best practice, the act of seeking and providing references should not just occur in a time of need.  Job seekers and their references should be providing value for one another long before the urgency arises.

 Indeed, asking a colleague to serve as a reference is a much softer request than asking if they know of any job openings, and most referrers would more easily agree to this request.  As a best practice, ask colleagues to serve as references when you are not seeking a job, or perhaps when you are about to begin a job search.

 Ask for their permission first.   To many job seekers’ surprise, a trusted colleague may not feel comfortable providing a reference.  Perhaps they are very busy with outside commitments and simply do not have time to provide a reference if the need arises.  Additionally, your colleague may feel uncomfortable providing a reference for you – for several reasons that may be unbeknownst to you.  Gently ask their permission first.

 Warn your colleagues before a potential recruiter makes contact.  Before typing your colleague’s name and contact info into the job application on a webpage when you are applying for jobs, warn your colleagues that you plan to do so beforehand.  No one likes surprises, and your referrers will be happy that you thought to keep them informed.

 Ask colleagues to keep you apprised of contact with recruiters.  In turn, ask your referrers to let you know if a recruiter or hiring manager made contact with them.  This information is valuable in an application process that is almost completely automated.

 Offer colleagues to serve as a reference for them.  While this may seem counterintuitive, as you are the one seeking a job, ask your referrers if they would like for you to serve as a reference for them.  You may be out of work, but there does not exist a better time to offer assistance in the other direction.  After all, your colleagues may find themselves looking for work at some point, and your offer will serve as a reminder for them to call in a favor.

 Leveraging LinkedIn

While seemingly a formal process, the act of requesting and collecting references has been facilitated with social media, most notably via LinkedIn.

 LinkedIn’s References feature allows you to both display references written on your behalf by others, and also have your references appear on other’s profile pages.  Recommendations, when submitted, must first be approved before publishing, which brings about valuable conversations between job seekers and their colleagues.

 Because your expertise and professionalism are on display for any of your connections to read, ask those who have agreed to write you a recommendation on LinkedIn to be as specific – and as grammatically correct – as possible.  A poorly-written, or inadequate, reference can actually reflect negatively on you, while a recommendation highlighting your performance for a specific set of tasks provides important insights.

Good:  ‘Prakash was a team player who got along great with the team.’

Better:  ‘Prakash espoused a ‘can-do’ attitude and consistently demonstrated a willingness to solve problems when difficulties arose.  In late 2011, we were working on deadline for a client, with a team of 10 analysts on 3 continents, utilizing outdated, incomplete information. John devised a solution that satisfied the client’s project requirements – under budget and delivered days before the deadline.  Prakash would definitely serve as an asset to any organization.’

Additionally, utilize recommendations you’ve written for others as a way to promote your own expertise.  Write recommendations that feature depth; writing with specific, descriptive language reflects positively on you, and could perhaps encourage someone reading your recommendation to click on your profile and read more about you.

Bonus:  When a recommendation is published on a profile, it is pushed through the newsfeed of that profile.  

Many overlook LinkedIn’s Recommendations feature, but it provides content that can benefit you and your colleagues immeasurably.  

Do Recruiters Care?

In a world of applicant-tracking systems software and thousands of resumes submitted for open jobs, it may seem archaic for a recruiter to follow up on references.   

However, for those recruiters and hiring managers who are eager to discover the more human side of an applicant – or perhaps, in an effort to find a differentiating factor – references can provide insights. 

While most job candidates fully expect a trusted colleague to sing their praises widely, a tepid or flat response can be telling.  As such, it is important to think about whom to ask to serve as your references.  A trusted colleague from a past job may turn out to be a poor communicator while on the phone with a recruiter, which may come off as that colleague feeling indifferent about your past job performance.  This can absolutely hurt your chances of being offered a job.

In summary, start thinking about those who can serve as a job reference as early in the career search as possible.  Make lists, and approach these individuals with your requests in the most professional manner possible.  Always offer assistance in return, and keep the lines of communication open.

 (Article Written by Jake Wengroff)

Published by admin at in category Jobs General with 1 Comments    
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Comment by Maria

Having a reference or not can make a huge difference. And yes, recruiters do follow up on references. I know this for sure because I serve as a reference for a few people myself and I've been called by recruiters a few times.

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