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Select, Prepare, and Protect Your References

Identifying a few folks who will speak on your behalf, and then listing their names on a sheet of paper seems like a simple enough task.  When your list is complete, voila', you have a reference list to be given out to prospective employers.
     Right? . . . . .  Wrong!
Compiling your reference list, called an Annotated Reference List, is anything but simple.  Just like any other of your important marketing tools, it should be strategically thought-through and carefully done, early in the game.
      Why? . . . . 
     A well-selected and well-prepared reference's recommendation of you could be just the resource to move you from candidate to employee.

Follow the steps listed below to
 SELECT, PREPARE, and PROTECT your references to ensure that they are, and continue to be, your best supporters as you pursue your dream job! 

As you begin your search, prepare your Annotated Reference List.  This marketing tool, just like your resume or marketing plan, should be produced at the beginning of your search.

Here's how:
1.  Identify 6-10 of your colleagues who can speak knowledgeably to prospective employers about you and your abilities.  Have a large enough selected set so that you are not always submitting the same names over and over and over.  This ensures that one person is not called, and bothered, too often.
  -  If you are pursuing 1 type of work, such as accounting, sales, or information technology, fewer will do.  6 or 7 solid references will suffice.
  -  If you are pursuing a couple of career directions, such as engineering and program management,  you will need more references.  You will need references who can speak about your capabilities as an engineer; you will need different references who can speak about your program management abilities and experience.  Have 6 - 7 solid references per each line of work sought.

2.  Contact each reference.  Ask their permission to use them as a reference.  This is best done in person or in a phone call.
You have to set the stage for your reference, describing the type of work you have been doing, and that you want to do.  An e-mail, no matter how detailed, generally falls short in accomplishing your goal of adequately preparing your reference.    
Provide your reference with the following information:
  -  Recent work history:  Share the type of work you have been doing, for whom, and in what industry.
  -  Position sought:  Offer a description of the type of work and role you would like.
  -  Update:  Describe your job search progress to date, or state that you are just beginning your search.
  -  Resume:  Give your reference a copy of your resume. Note:  Provide updated copies throughout your search if / when you make "significant" changes to your resume (an occasional word change doesn't warrant sending another copy).
  -  Description about the Reference that you wrote on your Annotated Reference List:  Reference's name, contact info, description of professional relationship, competencies and abilities the reference can discuss.  Ask them to check it and provide corrections.

3.  Assure your reference that you will let them know when you use them as reference.

4.  Keep your reference updated on your search progress.  Send short e-mails every 3-4 weeks on how it's going, always stating your appreciation for their support.

5.  Send a Thank You to your reference immediately after your phone or in-person meeting, expressing your appreciation for their support.

When you give out the name of a reference, immediately inform your reference that you have done so, and prepare your reference for a positive experience with the company representative who will be calling.

Here’s how:
1.  Alert your reference that you have provided their name and contact information to a firm you are considering working for.  State your level of interest in the opportunity -- Is this your dream job?

2.  Provide the name of the firm, the name of the person who will be calling (if you know it), the title/type of position you are interviewing for, and a brief explanation of the nature of the work of the firm

3.  Tell your reference where you are in the process of interacting with the firm:  application submitted, phone screen, in-person interview, multiple interviews, final selection stage, etc.

4. Send your reference a copy of the resume you submitted to the hiring firm (Do this as a courtesy, even if it is identical to the same resume you provided earlier.).

5.  Ask your reference to let you know when he/she is called by the hiring company.

Maintain your reference’s high regard for and willingness to help you by being selective about when, and to whom, you give their name and number.

Here’s how:
1.  Be selective.  Give out your annotated list of references to a hiring manager, recruiter, or company reference checker only when you are sure you are really interested in the company with which you are interviewing, and you have also gotten to a point in the interview process that you are certain that the company is really interested in you.
2.  Secure multiple references.  This eliminates the danger that any one person is called too frequently. 

A lot of work?  

Worth it?  

           A well-chosen and well-prepared reference can be the resource that moves your candidacy for a position from "under consideration" in the eyes of the hiring firm to "Welcome aboard!" 
 ____________________________________________________________________________                 AJC - for Your Career Path
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