An often overlooked piece of the job search process is appropriately handling your references. Most people don’t give this part of the process much thought because usually when you are asked for your references, your job search is nearly over. After all, organizations are not going to ask you for your references and go through the trouble of calling them if they are not seriously interested in you.
But you can’t afford to overlook any aspect of the job search process in a competitive environment. References can make or break your candidacy for a position. Even if you made a great impression at the interview, if your references do not strongly reinforce the impression you made, the company may decide to go with another candidate who was also had a great interview
Here are some don’ts about job references:
Don’t use someone as a reference without notifying them first. It is always helpful when your references have a heads-up, and they are expecting an employer’s call. Even though they may be very willing to help you, if they don’t know that an employer will be calling, they can be caught off guard.
Don’t list your references without context. Let employers know what your relationship is to your references on your references sheet. Giving employers some context will help employers know what kind of questions would be appropriate based on what your relationship is to your references. For example, if you have listed a boss as one reference and a co-worker as another reference, the employer will probably ask different questions of your boss as opposed to a co-worker.
Don’t limit contact information to just phone numbers. It is standard to list phone numbers on your references sheet, but it can also be useful to list email addresses and even Skype usernames if your references are outside the country. Giving employers different ways to contact your references can speed up the process.
Don’t list your references on your resume. It is now assumed that you will furnish references at the time of the interview. It is no longer necessary to take up space on the resume by putting the names of your references and their contact information.
Don’t use references that are too old. You may have someone who will say glowing things about you, but if it’s been 15 years since you worked with that person, the potential employer will probably not see what the reference has to say as being particularly relevant since the person has not had recent experience with you.
Don’t share the names of your references until you have prepped them thoroughly. If it has been a couple of years since you worked with the people who serve as your references, you may need to update them on what you have been doing as well as what your job target now is. A recent copy of your resume can fill in the gaps for your references, and vacancy announcements that are representative of the type of position that you are seeking can give your references more specific information about what aspects of your background they should highlight when talking with employers about you.