3 Tips for Effective References

Posted by Patra Frame

“We had two top candidates for a senior job. One whose references were glowing and one whose took forever to respond and then barely remembered the person.

– HR Executive.

“I can always find ways to get references to tell me a lot about the person I am checking on.”

– top Corporate Recruiter

“If all his references hide behind ‘policy’, we keep asking for more but I also start to think the candidate has issues.”

– Program Manager

If you want references that help you get your next cleared job, you need to be proactive.

Top Tips

3. The best references are past bosses, project managers, clients, or others who really know your work quality and value.
* Think about the people you liked working with, the ones you admired, those you learned from the most.
* Connect or re-connect with at least 8-10 of these.

2. Ask individuals to be references, then prepare them.
* A phone call or email asking someone to be a reference, with the reason you chose them, ensures your references are willing to do so.
* Once each says yes, send them a note about what you are looking for now and a copy of your current resume. Connect with them on LinkedIn if you have not done so already.
* Ask each for their preferred contact method and information so you give the recruiter or hiring manager the best info.

1. Use your references effectively.
* Select references who are most appropriate based on the specific job and organization.
* Protect all your references by only providing their contact info once you have been interviewed and are asked for references.
* Send each a note or call to tell them who will call and what the job is.
* Explain anything you really want them to talk about, based on your interviews.

And remember to say thank you to each reference each time you use the person!

These few tips will help you have the type of reference all hiring managers and recruiters want to talk to. People who know your work, who can talk about it effectively, and who are positive about you. We love those!

Patra FramePatra Frame is ClearedJobs.Net’s HR Specialist. She is an experienced human resources executive and founder of Strategies for Human Resources. Patra is an Air Force veteran and charter member of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial.


This entry was posted on Monday, June 02, 2014 8:28 am

5 thoughts on “3 Tips for Effective References”

    1. Thank you for the excellent reference tips! I have tried to contact a positive reference who offered to help me regarding future positions at the expiration of my full-time temporary (federal) appointment. However, after I learned that he had retired I have not been able to contact him.

      I found the website of his American Legion chapter, think I came upon a commentary regarding a memorial — thinking he may have died — but later heard rumors through a former employee — who had contacted a current employee — that he is still alive! He is my best reference!

      Please reply. Thank you!

      1. Marie, not at all sure what your question is. If you do a smart search, you are likely to find the person. If you cannot find him directly that way, then contact the people you both worked with and see if any of them can re-connect you.

  1. Question what do you do if an employer insists on talking to a manager. I have several references that i know will talk well. But they want the last one, and because i retired due to medical reasons, under not so great circumstances, The agency told that manager he can only give a neutral reference, in other words, confirm my position, salary, and that is about it. Is this a bad thing. He had told me when he saw me to put his name down, but I think in the meantime he was told to give only neutral reference. He did not give me permission to use his home phone or cell phone, as another former manager did.

    1. Pam, In cases like this, which are pretty common now, you tell the recruiter/hiring manager that this person offered to be a reference but has since told you that company policy only allows him to confirm your title and dates. But still give them the person’s name and office number if they push for a recent boss. And when giving other references for that same job, state that the person was a project manager or client or whatever for your work so that they know you have other references who do know the quality of your work. Do not memtion the medical issues at all.

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