When it comes to providing job references, I’m a bit torn. I know a lot of companies still ask for them. On the other hand, I’ve always thought that your references will all say that you’re perfect, so why bother? But after receiving today’s reader note, maybe I need to rethink my position.
Hello! I’m in the middle of interviewing for an upper-level research technician position and I’ve discovered that my reference list is out of date. I’m uncertain who to contact in this matter. I don’t want to contact the wrong HR person and be disqualified. Who is the best person to contact?
Regardless of your personal opinion about references, if you’re looking for a job, you should have your references ready. There are still plenty of companies that ask for references. Let me toss out a few things to consider in putting together your reference list.
References should be people you’ve worked with. I’m going to define “work” a little loosely here, because I do believe that you can use people you’ve worked with on large scale volunteer projects as references. When I was a part of HR Florida, we had a $1M budget. Those who volunteered on the conference team were working with budgets in the hundreds of thousands. They should be able to use that experience to demonstrate their skills. And their HR Florida colleagues would be ideal references.
Keep your job references current. There are several aspects to keeping references current. References from today are better than references from a decade ago. Stay in touch with references so you have their most current contact information. When you start interviewing, let your references know so they can support you. And absolutely, positively tell your references whenever you give their name to a prospective employer. You might not know exactly who is going to call, but at least give them the company’s name.
Clarify any mistakes in job reference contact info. I’ve actually had this happen. One of my references changed her cell phone number after I had given it to a recruiter. So, I called the recruiter and explained the situation. It wasn’t a big deal and it was only one phone number. I’m not sure in the situation above how much of the reader’s reference list is out of date and if there’s a logical explanation for the situation. Only the reader knows. But I’d like to believe that employers are reasonable. Even when we do all the right things, sometimes contact info needs to be updated.
The people you ask to be your job references should know your strengths and be willing to talk about them. They should be open to having their contact information provided to companies and receiving calls about you. The better job seekers are about managing their job references, the more they can help you get a job. And that’s the whole point of having references in the first place.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while touring the National Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas, NV