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Create a Complete and Effective Reference List

Hiring managers get paid to be suspicious. Every candidate they vet claims to have extensive experience and impressive credentials. It is the hiring manager’s job to figure out how many of those claims are true. That’s why assembling a list of references is such an asset to job seekers. These references can provide independent, objective conformation of a candidate’s credentials – the kind of information that hiring managers consider closely. Use the following tips to help you put together a complete and effective reference list.

  • Be Brief and Relevant – Rather than listing contacts for every place you’ve worked, limit your list of reference to three or four entries and pick the ones that are most applicable to the job you’re applying for. The best policy is to condense everything to one page.

  • Stick to Bosses – You may have had a close and cordial relationship with former co-workers, but their opinions won’t carry much weight with hiring managers. As you are assembling references, limit it to supervisors and bosses.

  • Don’t Eliminate Friends and Family – Typically, you will not want to put friends and family on your reference list. But if you have a professional connection to them, listing them as a reference is perfectly valid. If, for example, you worked at a family business or had a close friend as a boss, these would be valid references.

  • Stay Recent – It will raise red flags with hiring mangers if your reference list doesn’t include any contacts from jobs you’ve held in the recent past. As much as possible, try to populate your list with the most recent entries possible.

  • Notify Your Choices – You should always notify a reference that you have included them and alert them that they may be contacted. You should then explain the position you are seeking and request that the reference highlight certain aspects of your hard and soft skills. You don’t have to dictate their answers – and they should never be dishonest – but don’t hesitate to give them some guidance to follow.

  • Rotate and Refresh – If you are applying for a lot of jobs, you won’t want to include the same references over and over. They could find themselves fielding daily calls and quickly grow resentful. Try and rotate your entries to avoid this fatigue, and be sure to constantly update your list when new references become applicable. This is a document that should be constantly evolving throughout your career.

Assembling a list of references is an essential part of the application process. But your resume, cover letter, and interview skills need to be just as polished. In addition, enlist the expertise of a trusted recruiting professional that is a specialist in your industry. They can help you put your best foot forward and help you secure interviews with decision makers  you may not have been able to secure on your own.

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