What Should Your Personal References Say About You?

If you’re a finalist for a job, chances are, your potential employer will check in with your references. So, what should your personal references say about you? And how can you prepare them for this phone call?

What Your References Should Say About You

  • Positive Comments

    Of course, you’re hoping your references will give glowing reviews. Therefore, make your selections carefully. Choose supportive people with whom you get along well.

  • Specific Examples

    Although comments like, “She was fantastic!” or “He’s awesome!” sound nice, they aren’t especially informative for potential employers. Thus, try to build a list of people you know well and/or with whom you worked closely. This way, they’ll be able to tell stories detailing HOW you are fantastic and awesome.

  • Honest Assessments

    Almost every reference check will include the question, “What are this person’s weaknesses?” Honestly is essential. After all, no one is going to believe you are perfect. However, if a reference details every mistake you ever made, you probably won’t get the job either. Once again, try to choose the right references so you receive favorable yet balanced reviews.

How to Help Your References Get Ready

  • Give Advance Notice

    When a reference receives an out-of-the-blue phone call, it’s a worst-case scenario. Not only will your reference be unprepared but also, you’ll look irresponsible. (And you don’t want to look irresponsible when you’re asking someone for a recommendation.) Before you submit your references to your potential employer, contact every person on the list. Phone calls are best, but email is an acceptable backup plan if you’re having trouble connecting with someone.

  • Summarize Your Job Search

    Giving your references context is a smart plan. When they understand what a job involves, they can adjust their responses accordingly. This allows them to focus on the skills, talents, and experiences that make you a good fit for this exact position.

  • Send an Updated Resume

    Especially if you haven’t worked with someone for a long time, you may need to revive their memories. Providing them with a copy of your cover letter and resume as well as applicable online links is helpful. They may remember something they’d forgotten. Plus, they’ll have all your information available for immediate reference.

Finally, regardless of the result, let your references know what happened. They took time out of their scheduled to give you a hand, and they’ll appreciate the update. Not to mention, following up and saying “Thanks!” puts you at an advantage for the next time you need a recommendation!


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