How to Get Awesome References That Will Make You an Irresistible Job Candidate

May 19, 2014 - Joe Matar
Asking for help is never easy, but in our careers, we all need it from time to time. It’s good to remember that the people who’ve been the most successful and important to our careers are the people most able and willing to lend a hand. When it’s time to ask for references, seek out the most successful and influential people you can.
Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, "What's in it for me?” -- Brian Tracy
Using social media can help you create a well-rounded professional image for potential employers. (Click here to tweet this thought.) Good references can do the same thing by fleshing out the details on your resume. But there are right and wrong ways to collect professional references. Let the tips below be your guide.

1. Choose wisely

People who know you well professionally are the key people to target. They don’t have to be your best friends, but they need to be people who know what you’ve done and can speak to your strengths. You don’t need to limit yourself to former supervisors. Business acquaintances of all kinds are appropriate references.

2. Don’t forget to ask

It doesn’t matter how great a reference he can be: If a potential employer calls him out of the blue, the reference he gives isn’t going to be great. Manners matter. Give him a call, ask him out for coffee, update him on what you’re doing and let him know you'd like him to provide a reference.

3. Stay connected

Make sure your references have an updated copy of your resume. No one can remember every detail, but if they have your resume in front of them when they answer the phone, they can be sure to give you an accurate referral. Additionally, if they’re not already part of your virtual social circle, include them now. Add them on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.

4. Provide specifics

This is especially important for higher-level applicants. Sometimes potential employers will grill your references for specific details about you. If your reference says you’re a great people person, they may ask for proof. Make sure your reference has the information needed to present you in the best light. Think in terms of interview questions and provide them with detailed answers.

5. Use different references for different positions

A generalist resume will never win over one that’s specifically tailored to meet the needs of the job you’re applying for. References are no different. Certain people are going to be able to speak to certain skills. When choosing and listing references, keep this in mind. Steve P. Brady is an executive resume writer who blogs on resume writing and career development.