It’s on every application you’ve ever filled out: professional references. But who should you use? It can be a tricky affair choosing the elite few who will give your job recommendation and you must be shrewd and calculating in order to select the perfect candidates. It is worth it to bear in mind that the most effective references you have may not be those to whom you are closest, but those who can best judge your abilities and articulate them with the most impact.
• If possible, choose someone who already has a relationship with the hiring manager since the personal connection leads to higher confidence in the accuracy of the recommendation. Getting vouched for by someone who knows how to most effectively speak to the hiring manager may give you the needed edge over your competition. If no personal connection is available, look for people that have experience with the company that you want to work for.
• Choose someone the hiring manager can respect. Investigate the hiring manager so you can get to know his or her specialty in order to find someone within your industry most likely to garner respect for his or her accomplishments within the industry. This is a short way of saying that your recommendation’s opinion must be trusted. Pick reliable, knowledgeable, and smart individuals.
• Though it might be difficult to manage, if you can get your current boss to vouch for you in the vein of “We sure do want to keep him, but here’s why he is so valuable…” it can be a very effective means of getting positive attention from the hiring manager. If this is not possible, look for a peer or mentor within your current employer. When working with contacts at your current company, ensure that this is being done in complete confidence. Most employers don’t require a current company manager, so consider this only if you are 100% sure of the confidentiality.
• Try to find someone directly tied to the industry containing the job for which you are applying. Having a reputation within an industry to the point where you can be recommended from insiders goes a long way to confirming your competency and value. You want to use professional recommendations that are not only knowledgeable in their industry, but also well-connected. Connected people will be more likely to find common people of interest and develop a stronger trust relationship.
• Don’t forget about your past bosses. Pick one that is more likely to compliment your competency, effectiveness, and productivity. The whole point here is to make sure that the hiring manager is made certain that you know what you are doing. Because past managers make excellent recommendations, you can see why leaving jobs on a positive note is so important.
• If you are out of options and lack any of the above references, try to find a respected and active member of your community. This personal may be in a prestigious occupation such as a professor, doctor, or lawyer and will likely be a personal friend. However, before selecting anyone from your friends list, make sure that they have the most renown within the community – the community of the hiring manager, not necessarily your own.
People generally need another person’s validation of their choices, so it’s no surprise how important picking the right person to recommend you is. The right job reference can be invaluable to closing the deal with a new employer. Good luck with your job search process!