In today’s job market, the phrase “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is increasingly becoming more rule than exception. A resume detailing all of your occupations of the past and present, detailing tasks with close attention to detail to keywords and such is a great foundation as a means to get your foot into the door, but the best way to place emphasis on an already impressive job history write-up, is the inclusion of a list of references. References speak in such a way that a resume does not. A resume is you on paper, an interview puts a face to the name, and a great reference (preferably a minimum of three) is the candidate in a workplace setting coming from a source with firsthand knowledge of your on-the-job capabilities and expertise. In a nutshell, it is your credibility.
When creating the perfect reference list, there are 3 golden rules:
- Strategize Your Reference Choices
Over the course of your work history, it is very possible that you have accumulated quite the arsenal of potential reference candidates. These can be coworkers, former employers, educational mentors, or even volunteer coordinators. It is important to choose references that coincide with the job you are applying for and that the people your potential employer contact will be able to say things (i.e. strengths and weaknesses) that align with the position you are interviewing for. Be certain that the references you choose are people who can speak highly of you and attest to your strengths, accomplishments, and capabilities in the work environment. Positive references only.
- Format Your Reference List & Give Your Proposed References a Heads Up
Begin consolidating your list of references on the respective reference page. Your references should have their own separate page that stylistically resembles the look and feel of your resume entitled “References for (Insert Your Name)”. In the header, include your name, address, and two methods of contact. A simple format would be to have your name and address on the upper left corner and your phone number and email in the opposite corner. Make sure that the formatting for the header differs slightly from the formatting of the rest of your list of references. Cohesiveness and professionalism is key so aim for as clean a look as possible while holding your resume as the preferred style guide.
- Give Your Proposed References a Heads Up
Now that you have narrowed down exactly who you’d like to use as references and formatted your reference list, contact them to let them know that you would like to use them as a reference. Your references must explicitly agree to be a reference before you submit their contact info to your employer. Once you have their permission, write down their names, job title, place of employment, and preferred method of contact – all of which are details that you should ask for when asking if they would like to be used as a reference.