Some say finding a job is a full-time job—hours poured over resumes and cover letters and time preparing for interviews, but never forget possibly your most powerful resource: References.
Professional references can be better understood from two points of view: formal and informal. A formal reference would be one who can attest to your professional skill set and experience in your area of work. They would be listed on a written reference sheet submitted with a job application.
The latter type would be informal. Informal professional references function similarly in terms of attesting to your work skills, but they will also let you know of possible positions up and coming within their company and may give a few clues on how to succeed in the initial process of applying. An informal reference has the access and connection to give your name to their employer.
“I think most people are finding jobs through referrals. In terms of the employer calling a candidate’s references I would say about one third of the companies call your referrals.” Said Kaitlyn Mace, UVU Internship Recruiting Assistant. “Most” and one third are high numbers when it comes to your chances of getting the interviews and jobs that you want.
Here are some dos and don’ts to reaching out for references, thanking references and how to be a good reference.
Do keep your references informed, before, during and after. If you want to guarantee being labeled unprofessional, give a reference to a future employer without contacting the reference first. Good communication is 101 of professionalism.
During the interview process is a pivotal to stay in contact with a reference. Not knowing when a potential employer will call references, it is important to let the references know how the interview or interviews went. Share insight with your references. This will facilitate them in answering questions in your favor if called upon.
After the interview, whether you’re offered a job or not you can learn so much about yourself and the future employer by what they asked your references.
In the unfortunate event of not being selected for a position it’s important to follow up with your references as well, which leads to our next do.
Do thank. Thank you goes a long way. “Writing personal thank yous will never go out of style so I would send them a handwritten note thanking them for being willing to help you.” said Mace
If they don’t ask don’t tell. Many future employers do ask for and require references during the application process. But, some do not. If a company does not ask for a list of references you don’t need to go above and beyond in sharing them. This could make you seem overzealous to the future employer and you never want to exhaust your references.
Mace said it best, “It’s important to let people know you are looking for an internship and what your plans are. You never know when someone will open a door for you.”