References are more important than you may think, especially in this job market. Make sure that yours will help your chances of landing that dream job, not hurt it. What are companies looking for when they check a reference?
Make it a rule to skip personal references altogether. It is always a good idea to have at least one reference from your most recent position who can attest to your responsibilities and job performance. Find out if the employer would like to contact a Manager, Technical Lead, Customer, Subordinate, etc. This will help you figure out exactly what they are looking for. Don’t give blanket references out for every job. Try to wait until the final stages before providing these contacts to target the best references for that particular position.
Not being able to get in touch with a reference definitely slows down the hiring process. To facilitate this, always provide the work number, cell number and email address. Also, speak to your references every time you give out their information, so that you know their schedule. For example, if they are on vacation or in training, you can help coordinate when the best time to call would be, therefore dodging any scheduling conflicts. Hopefully, if they are aware, they will return any missed communications promptly.
When you call your references to give them a heads up, tell them about the position you are interviewing for. Let them know how excited and interested you are and why you think it would be a good fit. The more enthusiasm you show, the more likely they will be to get excited and go the distance. Don’t forget to thank them!! Bottom line, if you make the extra effort, they will do the same.
Obviously, companies are looking for someone to back up the information on your resume. Make sure your references are prepared to discuss strengths and weaknesses that pertain to the role you are interviewing for. That way, they are able to discuss all aspects in an honest but positive light. The more prepared they are, the smoother the process will be.