Congratulations! You’ve made it past the first few hurdles of getting your resume in front of a recruiter or hiring manager. They may have vetted you through LinkedIn and Google, and possibly you’ve passed the pre-screen interview. Now they are requesting references before moving you through the hiring process.
1. Prepare the people on your reference list. First and foremost, get their permission. It is very important that you speak to each of the references on your list before putting their name and contact information on any of your job search documents. Discuss with them what you would like them to relay to a potential employer. The better prepared they are to speak to your talents and skills, the stronger they come across as a reference.
2. Use recent references if possible. The more recent the reference the better. Generally, recruiters and hiring managers don’t care about what happened over 10 years ago. They want to know how you work today, what your strengths are when working with people and teams, what type of a person you are to work with, what type of a leader you are, that type of thing. Since people tend to forget specifics of working with you over time, don’t leave it to their memory or imagination to recall working relationships 10-20 years ago (unless that experience is principally relevant to a job you are seeking today).
3. Keep reference list current. If you are embarking on a new job search after several years, you will want to check in with your references to update them on your current status and make sure they are still available. References with outdated contact information will waste a recruiter’s time, and you want to make it easy for everyone involved.
4. Create a reference list with purpose. Make it easy for the reader to grasp the information that would be most helpful to them in choosing references to contact. Your reference list should include the reference person’s name, title, company (if possible), and contact information. Additional information that is extremely helpful to the reader is your relationship and what that reference will verify. See example.
Sample Reference list: