Putting together a list of references and stapling it to your resume and cover letter aren’t always enough. You want to make sure that you’re getting the most out of those carefully chosen names you sent to your prospective employer.
1. Stay in touch. Whether it’s via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, email, postcards, Christmas cards, etc., make sure that you stay in some sort of contact with your references. The last thing you want to do is have a potential employer make a phone call about you and your reference doesn’t even remember who you were. Small gestures sometimes speak volumes, so don’t be afraid to check in every now and then and see how the person is doing.
2. Make sure that your reference knows she/he is a reference. Check in with them first and ask if it’s okay to use you as a reference. Not only will this prepare the person for that phone call or email, but if they really like you, they may be more inclined to provide information about you as opposed to if a potential employer called asking out of the blue.
3. Never limit yourself. Make sure that your references list accurately reflects you. Are your professional references five years old or more? Consider rethinking listing them as a personal reference. Potential employers want to talk to someone who’s worked with you recently. They’ll certainly be looking at past references as well, but if all of your references are from positions you held several years ago, reach out to new contacts.
Keep in mind that in the legal-centric world we live in, professional references aren’t always so easily given. Past employers may be afraid to say too much about an applicant and risk being sued if the applicant doesn’t get the job. At the very least your reference can provide dates of employment, wage and title to a prospective employer, but if you’ve played your cards right, at the very most your reference can give a glowing review of your work ethic and talent.