Sunday, May 3, 2009

References can make or break your job search

Reference requests should not be a shock to any job seeker. Regardless of experience you should know 3 to 5 people who will be willing to give you a great review. I want to cover several items regarding references that many simply neglect to consider.

1. Notify the individuals, you will list as references, that you are doing so.

I have made many reference check calls where the reference was taken aback by my request on a job applicant. The reference did not realize that their friend/colleague was even looking for a job. In turn the information provided or given is given cautiously and much less detailed because they were not aware if they should be talking to me. This can be easily avoided by discussing with the people you will list that you are searching for a new position. As you apply and receive calls for interviews you should let your references know that they may receive a call from XYZ company.

2. Don't list family members as references.

Family members do not make good references. Several reasons for this, but most of all their credibility and bias is going to be questioned automatically. Why would they say anything bad? You should use past supervisors, business colleagues, coworkers, clients, patients, etc.

3. Stop putting "References Available Upon Request" on your resume or CV.

You WILL have to provide references. No question, it will happen. Simply save a step and put them with your CV/resume when you apply for a position. They probably will not be checked until you have met the employer for a face-to-face interview. However, providing references up front shows you are organized, serious, and committed to potentially working for the company. Never get caught up scrabbling at the last minute to get your references together. I like to look at the references of dentist I interview to see if I know any of them. Often times I or the practice I am working for does know them, and this peaks additional interest from the prospective employer.

4. Do not just list the Names and Numbers of references.

A good reference list contains at least 3 people, but 5 would be great. When listing the contacts you should put their name, title, company, your relationship to them, address (at least city & state), phone number, fax number, email, and website. Reference checks these days can take many forms. Make it as easy as possible for your potential employer to check them.

5. If you want your confidentiality to be kept, do not list co-workers as references.

Simple and obvious enough, you would think. People talk, and if you absolutely need to keep the job you have currently, then you don't need to take the chance of compromising your confidentiality. As well, you should note in cover letters that you are confidentially seeking new employment so prospective employers know that they should not contact your current employer.

6. Don't be offended because you are asked for references.

Several experienced doctors that I have worked with have asked me, "Why do I need references? I have been practicing for 20+ years, and my reputation is impeccable." That may be so, and if you have nothing to worry about then providing references that back up your reputation and career success should not be a problem.

References are vital to a smooth and successful interview process. Employers have to make sure you are the absolute right fit, and this is a good way to reassure them that you are the right choice.

Always remember that references should be chosen carefully, and they should say things that match up to what you have already told the potential employer about yourself. If in doubt about what a reference may say about you DO NOT use them.