Today, every job seeker should include a current reference list as part of their career portfolio. There are many questions I am often asked about reference sheets and what they should include. So, I have prepared some suggestions to assist you in updating your reference list to ensure your references work for you.
First I must begin by saying that references do not belong in a resume. The list should be available in a separate document. Secondly, a reference or line somewhere on the resume saying, "References are Available Upon Request" or something similar to this, is also not necessary. If and when the hiring manager is in need of your reference sheet it will be asked for. Having the sheet ready in duplicate, along with your other career documents, and in an organized portfolio and available for your interview or next networking meeting illustrates your motivation and the importance to you in finding a new job.
Your reference sheet should include four to six contacts. Each contact should be relevant to your current career goals and should be able to reflect on achievements of your past. The references should be professional associates of some kind. One "friend" with credentials is usually acceptable. The contacts should be made of employers, co-workers, staff members, past employers, internship employers, college professors, association or volunteer leaders, and department heads.
Contact names that come from current or past employment do not always need to be immediate superiors. It might be a better choice for the position you are seeking or because of unfavorable history to use someone you worked closely with such as a district manager or other superior that you reported indirectly to. Including one or two co-worker references is a good way for potential employers to see whether you related well with coworkers, or were a team player who got along with collections. These references can provide a clue to your dependability, work ethics, organizational skills and more.
When deciding on your contact list always ask for permission before putting anyone on your list. Inform them of their type of job you are looking for and make sure they have no hesitation or conflict in being a contact for you. Provide clear guidelines as to what would and would not be appropriate information to share. Many contacts despite trying to be helpful, can get carried away during the referral and say too much. Develop a written outline with skills and achievements, projects, experiences you would appreciate the contact to mention. Make them aware that you would rather them not elaborate more than what you've asked of them. You want your references to work for you, preparing your contact is your best defense. On your reference sheet each contact should include name, title, company, address, and phone number.
As you progress through your job search keep your references aware of your progress. If you know they will be contacted soon send them a quick email or give them a quick call to prepare them. Once you have found a new job do not forget to send each of your contacts a hand written note of thanks or offer a small gift of appreciation. Even if the contact was never used during your job search it is still a nice to thank them for their willingness to assist you and is very professional.
Expect potential employers to contact those on your reference list. Also expect them to verify your college information, title information of some or all jobs from your past even if they are not on your reference list. Other checks that occur regularly are licenses, certificates and other qualifiers; projects you worked on, volunteer work, and military backgrounds. I have even heard of an increase in personal credit checks of potential employees. This is why it is so important to be honest in your career documents; usually it is grounds for immediate cancellation if you have been found falsifying information.
Lastly, be aware that the next time you are in the market for a new job; make sure you complete the referral collection process all over again. Do not assum old contacts will want to be on your list again or that they will be the right fit for future job searches. Be prepared and keep your references aware to ensure that they are working for you.