How to Choose Strong References During Your Job Search

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While most employers don’t base their entire staffing decision on a candidate’s list of references, this list can provide the deciding factor after a wide pool of contenders have been narrowed down to a short list of qualified finalists. When hiring managers have to make a tough choice between the best candidate and a close runner up, they start contacting references and listen carefully for testimonials that might push them in one direction or the other. Will your chosen references send you across the finish line? Or will they hold you back at the last minute? Here are few ways to make sure your references are helping you, not casting doubt over your candidacy.

Choose a list of references that fit the following criteria. Each reference on your list should be…

1. Someone who takes your success personally.

Your reference should want you to succeed and land this job just as badly as you do. If you’re choosing someone who wishes you no harm, that’s fine. If you’re choosing someone who vaguely wishes you well, that’s also okay. But ideally, your references should have a strong emotional and personal investment in seeing you fulfill your goals.

2. Someone who knows you well.

A great reference is someone who’s worked very closely with you and can speak clearly about your areas of strength. This may be necessary if the person is presented with in-depth questions about how you handle the challenges of the field, from individual software platforms to specific customer and client problems.

3. Someone who can think quickly and stay flexible when presented with a tough question.

Managers completing a reference check are accustomed to blandly positive, neutral answers that don’t reveal any meaningful information. They often counter this by asking tricky questions like “What responsibility would you be most likely to hand to someone else, instead of this candidate?” Don’t list a reference who might freeze up and fumble through this question. Instead, choose someone who will think on her feet.

4. Someone who you trust.

Make sure you choose references who make you proud, who are proud of you in turn, and who like you on a personal level. Choose references who are smart, savvy, and great at what they do. Most of all, choose people who you want in your corner, and who you know will have your back.

5. Someone who fits the requirements laid out by your potential employer.

If your potential employer states clearly that your references should be former supervisors, direct reports, clients, professors, non-family members, etc, etc, make sure your references fit the bill.

For more on how to choose references that can give your candidacy a competitive edge and help you land the job you need, reach out to the Little Rock staffing and employment experts at CSS.

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