Does this scenario sound familiar? It’s been several months since you left your last position. You’ve been working hard to find the next great job opening and it’s starting to pay off. You apply for your dream position and get a call to meet the hiring manager. The interview goes smoothly, the potential employer expresses interest in you and now they’ve asked for a list of references.
Assuming you have one, do you know it’s not out of date?
In the business world, things change all the time. People retire, have their positions eliminated, move on to other things. Companies change ownership or close down. If any of these circumstances affect the people on your reference list – and you don’t know about it – you could be in trouble.
When considering new hires, HR managers put a lot of stock in professional references. They want to talk to people you’ve worked with or for in the past few years, to get a better sense of your work history and performance. You may look good on paper and present well in an interview, but a glowing reference could be the one factor that puts you over the top. For all these reasons, it’s imperative that you maintain an accurate, updated reference list. Here are some tips:
Stay in touch
It takes a little effort, but the pay-off is worth it. Every month or so, call or send an email to people on your list – just to say “Hi,” see how they’re doing and remind them you’re out looking for a job. This way, it’s much more likely you’ll know about any changes in their professional status sooner rather than later.
Contact reference before submitting list
Before giving your reference’s name and contact information out, let them know someone may be calling soon to ask about you. This is far preferable to your valued reference getting a call out of the blue and having some difficulty coming up with the right answer on the spot. Some advance notice enables them to look back on your work history and, more importantly, how to tailor their response to fit the specifics of your new potential job.
Feed and care for your professional network
Whether it’s through LinkedIn or another social media outlet, take care of your professional network. Let people know what you’re doing and express interest in their activities, too. It’s important to stay “top of mind” with the people you plan to use as references. No one wants to talk about you if they haven’t heard from you in months or years.
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