Most employers ask for two documents from potential candidates: A resume and a cover letter. During the initial application process and first round screening, employers can usually make decisions and narrow the pool using these two items alone.
But if you make it through the first round and are eventually called in for an interview, the competition around you will tighten, and the more detail you can provide to employers, the better. Whether your employers do or don’t ask you to attach a list of references to your resume, it’s a good idea to make this list available. Here are a few moves that can help:
1. Reach out boldly.If you don’t think you have anyone among your contacts who might be close enough to you to serve as a reference, think again. Professors, mentors, internship coordinators, and former employers are all well accustomed to serving as references for job seekers like you. They won’t be confused, embarrassed, or caught off guard by your request. No matter how much you ask for in terms of commitment or detail, they’ve heard it all before.
2. Begin your list with those who have supervised or trained youin some professional capacity. Until you reach number five on the list, try not to include peers, classmates, or coworkers at your own level.
3. Avoid including family members on your list, even if you spent some time working for your parent’s company or you helped a relative launch her business. There’s really nothing wrong with this, but it might suggest that you have trouble obtaining non-family supporters.
4. Include both middle- and upper-management. When potential employers call your references to ask them about you, they’ll ideally want to speak to a mix of both 1) immediate supervisors who might be lower-level, and 2) higher-level company managers and subject matter experts who can vouch for you even if they may not have worked with you closely.
4. Inform your referencesthat you’d like to include them on your list. If they agree, let them know exactly what will be asked of them. Most people are flattered to be included on a reference list, but if they receive no warning, they may not have a statement prepared when your potential employers reach out to them.
5. Choose references who can think on their feet. Sometimes, potential employers present references with tough questions like: “Which job would you trust to someone else instead of this candidate?” Make sure your references can be trusted to say something that helps you shine.
6. Show your thanks. When your references agree to be included on your list, thank them politely and promise to keep them informed as your job search progresses. After you land a position and decide to accept, send your references a quick note (by mail or email) informing them of your success and thanking them for their support.
Together, your references, resume , and cover letter can present a clear picture of who you are as a person, what you have to offer, and why you can be trusted to handle the job in question. Visit LiveCareer for more on how to format your application and present your credentials in a professional, attention-getting way.