How to compile a strong reference list for your job search

Here are a few tips for creating a strong reference list for your next potential job.

When you've made it through the interview and impressed the hiring manager with your skills and experience, there's one more step you need to take. Presenting a list of professional references after a potential employer has shown interest in hiring you is often the final task before they make their ultimate decision.

To improve your chances of success, you should have a list of references prepared and ready to go. Here are a few tips for creating a strong reference list for your next potential job.

Think about who can speak to your skill set

Your references should be people who can speak about your skills, experience and personal values with authority. Ideally, they will be people with whom you have worked on projects with similar requirements to the job for which you are interviewing. However, other acceptable job references include former faculty mentors and professors, leaders from volunteer opportunities, sports coaches or peers from military service.

So who is generally disqualified from being a professional reference? Most hiring managers won't accept family members or friends. Likewise, you should avoid utilizing people who aren't very familiar with your accomplishments and experience.

Consider sending your references a list of your recent professional accomplishments.

Prepare your references before they get a call

Once you've narrowed down your list of references to a handful of people qualified to speak about your character and professional capabilities, you'll want to ask their permission before sending their names to a recruiter or hiring manager. Not only is it polite to ask in advance, but it is also prudent to share relevant information with them so they can provide a supportive recommendation.

For example, if your references are former managers you haven't worked with in several years, you'll want to send them an updated version of your resume so they have a better context for your career trajectory.

If you get permission from your references at the beginning of your job search, it's still a good idea to give them a heads up when a recruiter will be contacting them, especially if it's been a few weeks since you last reached out to them.

Format your list for recruiters

When your references agree to vouch for you, ask them about their preferred method of contact. Some people may prefer an email to a phone call, for example. You may also want to clarify their current job title if it has changed since you worked with them.

Once you have compiled all the information you need, format it in an easy-to-read document that you can pass on to the recruiter. You'll want to include each reference's name, current job title, a brief description of your relationship to him or her, and contact information. For example:

John A. Doe
Vice President of Widget Production
[email protected]
John was my supervisor at USA Widgets for two years.

Stay in touch and express your gratitude

Your professional references are an important piece of your network. Use social media sites like LinkedIn to stay in touch with your connections throughout your career so you don't have to scramble to find new references if you need to find a new job. Sharing interesting articles, commenting on their posts and sending a quick hello through email can help you to keep in touch without taking up too much of each other's time.

"Though it may take significant effort, remember that maintaining relationships with your previous supervisors and managers comes with a number of networking advantages," says Lisa Rauhauser, Division Director of Beacon Hill's Legal Division in Los Angeles. "As your career develops, you never know when a reference provider might have an opportunity for you. For example, if your reference changes jobs, that may open up opportunities – a new position to consider, a renewed mentor relationship, and more exposure to your industry."

When you do land the job you interviewed for, be sure to write a quick thank you note to each of your references. They will appreciate knowing how everything worked out for you.

Your list of professional references is just one essential tool in your job search kit. For more information on finding the job of your dreams, check out our Resource Center today.

This content is brought to you by the Marketing Team at Beacon Hill Staffing Group.

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