“Do you mind if I contact your references?” That is a question you should welcome during a job interview. If a potential employer is willing to make the effort to investigate your background more fully, that usually indicates a heightened level of interest in hiring you.
But will a check of your references generate positive results? That is really up to you and the preparation work you have done ahead of the interview. Just as you must “clean up” your resume to make the right impression, so you should give careful thought to choosing your references and preparing them for a call.
In this litigious and suspicious age we live in, checking the references of a job candidate has evolved from a mere formality to an important part of the interview process. Not only do potential employers want to confirm that you have the experience to do the job properly, they also want to be sure that you are the kind of person who can be trusted to fit into the organization. Mostly, they want to avoid making a hiring mistake that will cost them time and money down the road.
If your resume includes the line, “References Upon Request,” you had better have a list ready to go. List your references on a separate sheet, and include the necessary contact information: name, title, company, address, telephone number and e-mail address. Also, list the person’s relationship to you – supervisor, business owner, human resources, etc.
How many references should you have? Three to five individuals who can speak about your work history is sufficient. Try to arrange them in chronological order, starting with the most recent. If possible, use people who had direct supervision over you, as they will be most familiar with your work.
Before listing someone as a reference, you should inform him or her that you are looking for a new job and ask if they are willing to be contacted to discuss your work history. Tell them what highlights you have included in your resume from the time period in which you worked together, so that they are reminded of your accomplishments.
Do not list an individual as a reference without getting their permission ahead of time. It is both common courtesy and smart planning to prepare them in advance for any inquiries they may receive.
In a perfect world, you should inform your present employer that you are looking for a new job, and that you would like to list them as a reference. However, if you don’t want your boss to know you’re searching for a new position, tell the interviewer that you would prefer that they not contact your current employer, as they are not aware you are looking for another position.
If the interviewer pushes to get a reference from your current employer, try to strike a compromise. Tell the interviewer that you would prefer to have an offer of employment before allowing contact with your present employer.
If you have already informed your current employer that you’re interviewing for other jobs, let the interviewer know whom in the organization they should contact for a reference. Again, the best person is probably your direct supervisor.
Although a good list of references is not as critical to an interview as a sharp resume, they can make the difference in a competitive job search. Do your homework and prepare your contacts in advance to give yourself the best chance.