How To Select and Coach Your Job References

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A great reference will be your biggest cheerleader and your #1 fan! A well picked reference can single handedly convince the hiring manager that you are perfect for the role with their raving recommendation. On the flip side, a reference that has been placed on your resume in an careless manner can cost you the job you're chasing after.

"A hiring manager is influenced by whom they speak to and what they learn in those crucial job reference calls. They know that up to 81% of job seekers lie during job interviews, and they will be on the hunt to sniff out information about how excited and prepared you really are for the role." - Source

If you want the right information about your skills and energy, then you need to really think through who and why you select your pick of references. Once you have your references in order, it's time to prepare them for questions they may face. Here is how:

Give your job reference proper notice

It's common courtesy to give your job reference a heads up on the upcoming call from the hiring manager. The last thing you want is a "umm... I don't know who you're talking about?" when your unsuspecting reference is called out of the blue during a busy work day.  

The first step should always be to ask permission to list them as a reference so you don't intrusively push this role on them.  Fifteen percent of employees said they were putting down references who had no idea they were being listed as references. Don’t do this.

When you reach out to ask if someone can be a reference, you can feel out their excitement or dread to do so. This is vital to understand if someone truly wants to be a great reference and will put you in a good light for your new possible role. If you have any red flags or question what a reference may say about you, then it's best to keep them off your reference list.

Coach them about what kind of questions they’ll be asked

Monica Torres from The Ladder says "Once you’ve picked your team of cheerleaders, you need to coach them about what kind of questions they’ll be asked. There is no shame in updating them about what you have been up to in the last few months if this is someone you do not work with closely. Send them a copy of recent projects you have done, your resume and the cover letter you used to apply for the role. Recognize that different colleagues are able to speak about different skills. A peer will have different knowledge about your internal influence and leadership abilities than a boss." 

Know the role you are applying for. Your reference needs to be able to relay the qualities and skills the hiring manager is looking for so they can attest to your fit for the job. You want them to be able to answer on your SEO skills if the job calls for excellent SEO skills.  “Tell them why you believe the company wants to hire you and how you are likely to be useful for that company so they can reinforce that,” Priscilla Claman, the co-founder of Career Strategiesm, told Harvard Business Review. “One could talk about your ability to establish relationships with colleagues, another about your technical skills, and another about your project management abilities.”

Recognize that common reference questions will ask how you perform under adversity like “How well did the candidate perform under stressful conditions such as facing sale” or “Are there any areas that the candidate could use improvement?” If you know your reference may have a difficult time answering something similar to these questions, then it may mean you need to select a different reference. 
 

The vision of your character and skills that a hiring manager can see in you depends entirely on who you select as your references. They can see who you selected as your recommendations and that directly reflects on to you and who you are as a professional, in and out the workplace. Do your research and methodically select your team of references; they can be the key to landing your next opportunity.


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