THE BLOG
11/13/2012 10:41 am ET Updated Jan 13, 2013

The Hiring Guru: Let Me Be Blunt - Prep Your References, Duh!

In this blog, I am here to help you succeed at interviewing and finding a career, one that you can be happy with. Getting hired may require a few interviewing secrets to be revealed, so this week we are going to discuss the fourth of my Ten Truths for Job-Seeking Candidates. And please pay attention, because with this Truth it may not be you who blows your golden opportunity. Again this week, there is some preparation involved. This time it's not you -- it's others.

First off, to review (if you're just joining us):

  • Truth One is Your Decision Comes First. You've got to first decide that you are the only person for the job (or at least the best), you want it and you're going to get it.
  • Truth Two is A Good Resume Gets You In The Door. A professional resume with a good, personal cover letter is a must have -- in hard copy or electronic versions.
  • Truth Three is Like a Boy Scout, Be Prepared. While I'm not campaigning that employers will be nosy and search through every candidates online presence BUT if you are currently job-hunting you have to know that it is a very strong possibility that employers will check you out online.

Now that you have yourself prepared, make sure your references are ready. Therefore Truth Four is Prep Your References, Duh!

Possibly the worst thing to happen before you attend an interview, or even worse after you've interviewed and the company is interested, is having unprepared references.

Let references know they are on your list and may receive a telephone call. Tell them the type of job you are soliciting and any details you'd like stressed from their viewpoint.

Most people are good about this and generously add kudos for you anyway. Always be prepared, in case your cousin or former boss is "in a mood" when the call comes in and erroneously says something to the effect of, "Didn't he already get a job?" Better yet, don't use your cousin. Relatives are useless references. Even if you worked at your father's business for the last fourteen years, use the office manager or sales director instead of your father. Make an effort to show the interviewer that you actually had to work to advance, not just show up at the office. The same thing happens if you put "friend" under the relationship of your references, or "was my supervisor, but now still friends." That qualification doesn't give the impression you worked diligently and were likeable, it invokes doubt as to whether or not you were there to complete a job or make friends.

Just list a good credible reference from your previous employment. An HR representative would be lower on the scale, but not a bad choice. The president or a vice president is suitable as is your direct supervisor, who hopefully would rave about your punctuality, eagerness to assume responsibilities, and ability to think outside the box.

Along the line of preparation, don't merely tell the reference once and forget about it. You could lose your dream job because three months later that person says to a reference-checker, "Are you sure they worked here?" When you're looking for promising, new opportunities, make a refresher call to your references to brief them that they may receive a telephone call and you appreciate their help on your behalf.

It is advisable to have a reference page available upon request, but not submitted to HR until requested. It's customary to be asked for three; I'd suggest having four references prepared in case one can't be reached. Remember, no Uncle Frank. Use the supervisor of your department at the previous job and the HR manager, too. Add a professor from a continuing-education class or an attorney with whom you did a summer internship. Those types of references give confidence in reassuring your prospective employer that he or she made the right choice.

I hope this helps raise awareness of the possibilities regarding what could happen and that most "gone wrong" scenarios are avoidable. Go succeed!

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