In the search process for a new job, references are outward representations of you as a candidate. They advocate for you and your character and can provide a competitive advantage. For these reasons, references are extremely important components of the search process and should be chosen with intentionality and in advance.
To “get the most out of your reference,” allowing for the greatest benefit in the search process, we recommend the following steps:
- Choose your reference: When choosing a reference, there are many points to check for: does this person know you well enough, is this person willing to be your reference, and does this individual want to advocate on your part? It’s important to choose a reference who knows you well, meaning they can provide a comprehensive and holistic perspective of your strengths and areas of development. For IT roles or analytical positions, this individual can speak to your technical skills.
- Reach out to your reference: Following the hardest step of this process, the question of how to reach out to a reference is raised. Traditionally, most references are a mix of managerial references from previous companies and former or present colleagues who you have worked with closely and know your skillset. When making the ask, try to do so in person or on a phone call instead of via email. When asking, provide context. Make sure they know what jobs you’re looking for and the details of the search.
- Keep your reference updated: When choosing and reaching out to a reference, you should make sure they are reliable, committed, and available to connect with employers. Following these expectations, however, is two sided: candidates must also communicate updates regarding the search and interview process.
- Express gratitude: While this step happens seamlessly throughout the reference process, a physical note of gratitude is highly recommended and appreciated. People receive and delete emails all the time, but handwritten notes may be left on desks or even saved. By writing a handwritten note, a candidate shows deep appreciation for the reference’s commitment and assistance.
When choosing a reference, think about the who and the representation of you. Specifically, be thoughtful in your selection, ask in advance of your job search, and communicate throughout your journey of finding a new job.