Job Search Series: Updating Your Job References

You may want to think about your job search as a modern-day marketing campaign. You are your own product, and your resume, cover letter and online presence are your advertising. Of course, a new employer will look at what you hand them and your online presence, but they will also be in search of others to hear what they have to say about you.


One area of your resume you might have overlooked are your references. When being considered for a job, your reference list is one of the more important things you can provide to your potential employer that does not come from you. In other words, most of the rest of the information your potential employer will be looking at will be coming from you.


Your reference check will usually come in the final steps before being offered a job. While a reference list was once added to every resume, it’s not a good idea to do that today. Some job applications will ask for references immediately, while in other cases your potential employer will ask you for a list of references once they’ve decided to move forward with your process.


It’s important that you have planned ahead of time and have a reference list ready to share, and you’ve given your references a heads up someone will be reaching out. It’s likely that you asked those you put on your reference list if they could be contacted by any potential employers. However, don’t let this be the last time you’ve talked to them. Your references will be representing your character and your performance to others. Staying in touch and keeping them up-to-date with who might be contacting them, and for what position, will help them represent you well.


Think of your references as your personal evangelists. They should be able to speak about your character or your qualifications for the job you’re pursuing. Try selecting people who are intimate with your work and your skills, such as former clients, professors or community leaders. Be sure you ask for their permission to be placed on your list, since being contacted by a potential employer without permission may very well lose this job opportunity for you. Consider your references’ privacy wishes as well. Ask them how they would like to be contacted and only list those methods.


Format your reference list with the same care that you use to format your resume and your cover letter. Although the list will be submitted separately, it should match the formatting you used on any previous paperwork you submitted. Remember your references are doing you a favor and so once the process is finished, remember to thank them for their assistance. Maintain personal contact with them in the following years by sending a card during the holidays or remembering them on their birthdays. This helps them to feel more favorably toward you and more likely to say yes if you need their assistance again.


As you’re submitting a reference list, make sure there are an adequate number of people your potential employer can contact. Google your references before you add them to your list to be sure that nothing pops up that might reflect negatively on you. Wait until your potential employer asks for your list and don’t exceed six references on your list unless you’ve been requested to. This is just overkill. Most potential employers will ask for a specific number, but generally you’ll be required to provide three business references and one or two personal references.


How Do You Advertise Your Skills?

The paperwork you provide a potential employer is your calling card and how you’ll be perceived long before an interview or after you’ve left. Think of your resume, cover letter and reference list as seeds you are scattering, which may bear fruit even months down the road. While you may not be tapped for the position you’ve applied for, this company may see potential in you for another position that opens up later. Contact our professional recruiters at Anodyne to help you polish your presentation and find the right position for you.