References can be among your most valuable assets. Your references can and cinch a pending job opportunity or unknowingly be your worst enemy and nix the opportunity.
Providing references and recommendations to a potential employer can offer insight into how others have perceived working with you and may actually help to ‘tip the scales’ in your favor.
Here are five simple tips to develop your references:
Tip #1 – Ask for Permission
Request permission from anyone you plan to use as a reference and let your references know they may be contacted. Ask your references what contact information they would like you to include and if they have any preferences about how they would like to be contacted.
Tip #2 – Coach Your References
Provide each reference with a copy of your resume. However, don’t assume that your references know what you want them to say about you. Coach each reference regarding the types of positions you’re pursuing and what it is you would like them to speak to. For example, a specific project that the two of you worked on together, or a task force that you led, or a business objective you achieved.
Tip #3 – Request Written Recommendations
Ask your references for a recommendation in writing. Their recommendation should be brief but succinct in touting your strengths, talents and professional attributes. In fact, you may want to create one document which contains both references and recommendations to submit whether unsolicited or by request; usually during a second or third interview.
Tip #4 – Keep it Professional
As an executive, potential employers are seeking references from people who have worked with you directly such as executive-level associates, fellow committee members, partners, board members, mentors, investors, bankers, consultants, etc. However, you should also include references from subordinates. A well-rounded portfolio of references helps the recruiter gain greater insight into how you interact with all the members on your team.
Tip #5 – Send a Thank You Note
Once you land a position, send a thank you note to each of your references to let them know their feedback was an essential part of your success. Be sure to offer to provide a recommendation for them as well.
Your Reference List is one more tool you have to market and sell yourself. You can create a separate page for each reference and make it very formal or you can format it similarly to your resume and list three to four references on a page. Be sure to leave room for the reference checker to take notes.
Remember; do not underestimate the value of your references and the power they hold.