By: Randy Samsel
What would your references say about you? Wouldn’t you like to know?
Most individuals list the people they believe will say good and nice things about them. Occasionally I will talk with a reference about a candidate, though, and get mediocre to low feedback. I always ask for “weaknesses”. If a reference has nothing they can point to, I become skeptical, since everyone has weaknesses.
While you cannot control what a person will say about you, on a reference call, you should choose those individuals who are likely to praise you based on the work you performed. Start by choosing bosses and coworkers who actually praised you on the job, especially in situations when you went above and beyond.
Always ask permission to use them as a reference and let them know who may be calling and what the situation is. You may wish to remind them of a project or role you were in, the positive results, and what they praised you for. The more substance they can provide in terms of the work you did and the positive results your work produced, the better. If the person is agreeable, ask them to provide a written reference for you to keep on file for future use. Also make sure to retain written work evaluations for the same purpose.
Written references and evaluations, combined with pre-screened and agreeable individuals to serve as your references can eliminate angst and uncertainty. Once you have these in hand, make sure to volunteer them in interview situations. It is a confident move which may make a difference in a hiring manager’s interest level.