Has a friend ever told you about a new movie in the cinemas? Or told you to try out a new restaurant in town? Most of us get such updates quite often, but here’s one standard line of action we all honestly take. We want to know for sure before we see that movie or eat in that restaurant.
It’s either you go online to check for reviews as you would do when shopping online, or ask other friends who have seen the movie too or eaten out of that restaurant. The same applies to the hiring process.
Hiring managers want to hear about you from people whom you’ve worked with in the past. It’s a way of getting to know you better beyond the print on your resume and cover letter.
What is a reference?
This is a professional recommendation given by a former colleague, a boss, or someone in your professional network, attesting positively to your qualities and confirming that you are qualified for a job you applied for. It is an endorsement of your ability to do well on the job if hired. References should always be tailored to match the job which you applied for.
Hiring managers and your prospective employer often ask for about two to three references. They use this to bolster their understanding of what they know of you already during the interview process.
References will most likely be asked of you towards the last stage of the interview process, so it’s a good sign that you’re already seriously considered for the position for which you`re being interviewed.
Who can be your reference?
Getting a reference is undoubtedly one of the best things that can happen for you during an interview process. However, you must keep in mind that you can’t just invite anyone to be your reference.
The report of a reference about you can either be the seal that further validates your candidacy or a smear that tarnishes your reputation. Hence the need to be strategic as you go about it.
Getting a reference from a family member is not a bad idea. But they must be someone with whom you’ve worked before. Instead of describing how good you’ve been as a cousin, they’ll be able to provide information about your professional conduct in the place of work. That’s what recruiters want to hear.
For beginners and fresh college graduates who are new in the job market, your lectures, dean, or internship supervisor can help. People who have spent some time working for other organizations may not find it so hard because you can always fall back to your colleagues or former bosses for a reference. Regardless of the person giving you a reference, they must be able to say something positive about you in relation to the role you’ve applied for.
On the other hand, the hiring manager can also request that you provide specific kinds of references. For instance, some recruiters are in the habit of asking for references from your supervisor on your last job.
Some may ask for a reputable academic reference from your Alma mater. You then have to get the references. However, in some cases, your prospective employer may simply ask you for their contact details and then reach out to your references themselves.
How to ask someone to be your reference
Let’s assume that you have just applied for a role you really like, with the hope of being hired to work for the organization advertising that job.
You also realized that the qualification criteria include providing two references from your professional network to write to the recruiter, describing why they think you’re a good fit for the role. Here are the steps you will need to take to get your references to give you precisely what you need.
1. Make a list of potential references from your network
The first thing you should do is make a list of people you think will be of help without showing much hesitation. Getting a reference can be a big ask, especially for people who do not know you all that well. Therefore, be sure to engage people whom you believe will assist.
But while you are at it, do not feel entitled. The fact that you worked closely with someone does not necessarily mean that they owe you a reference in the future unless you’ve discussed it before now.
2. Reach out to them before the interviewer asks
Next, you should contact them. Typically, you would be asked to provide not more than three references, but let’s continue with our scenario, which involves just two references. They should know beforehand that you need them to stand as your references.
Be as polite as possible when calling or sending out your email. If possible, make arrangements for more than you are required to provide if you cannot reach any of them later.
Note that it’s very important to inform the person before listing them as your reference. No reference would like to be caught off guard. Therefore, you really want to avoid making that mistake. Ask the person if he/she is willing to stand as your reference, but make sure to ask early. If they decline, thank them sincerely, and move on to another person.
3. Make their job easy
At this point, we`ll assume you now have maybe three potential references. Instead of leaving them to figure out what to say about you, go ahead and explain to them what information the recruiter may require from them.
If a letter is necessary, try to give them a template to edit as they see fit. This way, you can ensure that the right information is captured in the letter.
Also, if the company decides to call, let your reference be in the know as well. Possibly, you can give them the name and phone number of the person who will be calling. This is to minimize surprises.
4. Provide feedback
No matter what the interview outcome is, make sure to get back to your references with feedback. Also, thank them for taking the time to be of help. Remember that you are not paying them for their effort. Leaving feedback is the least you can do. And whatever the result may be, they should hear it from you first.