It is inevitable that at some point in your job search you will be asked for references. When you are, you want to be sure you have a great group of advocates who are prepared with answers that will help rather than hinder your chances at landing the position. It is more important that the individuals you choose know you well enough, have experience working with you, and are willing to vouch for you. In short, you are looking for anyone who can communicate your experience, skills, integrity, professionalism, and can-do attitude to any potential employer. References are something you should think about at the beginning of your interview process and not just at the end when you are under immediate pressure to provide them.
Start by making a list of all the possible people you can use as a reference. Unsure who you can ask? Consider asking teachers, counselors, former employers and managers, family friends who have seen you in a professional setting, association leaders, and church members.
Once you have prepared a list of approximately five potential references you need to:
• Ask the person for permission.
• Ask for their preferred means of contact, whether it is by personal or office phone or if they would rather be contacted via e-mail.
• Discuss the following likely questions with your potential references, so that you know what they are going to say and there are no surprises. You can tell them what points you are aiming to reinforce with the employers who might contact them and more than likely they will happy for the input.
It is also a good practice to keep a folder of references and commendations throughout your career. Get into the habit of asking for a letter of reference from someone who you have worked with who might be moving on and ask that person if they would be willing to serve as a verbal reference as well.