As a human recourses professional, I always get asked by my friends how to put together references for jobs. Why does putting together a list of references scare even the smartest of people? Let’s demystify employment references.
Take being asked for a list of references as an informal way of your future employer sniffing you out. Do we call the people on your list? You bet. And how can we tell that the reference you gave for your last job isn’t your cousin or best friend pretending to be your former boss? Ah! I’m not disclosing all of our secrets, but I can tell you that the Internet makes this process a hell of a lot easier. First point I’ll give you is just skip faking your reference materials because those ones are usually the easiest to figure out.
Who should make your list of references? Your former bosses and coworkers. Legitimately, your former boss my just hate you. I mean, we get the fact that playing in the sandbox isn’t always the most amicable thing to do every day. But, you’d be surprised at how willing a former boss is to recommend you a couple of years after you left the company. After working with your replacement for a few years, they have a skewed memory of any drama that ensued between you.
Coworkers can be tricky on a list of references. They can easily be tripped up when it comes to giving a reference for you. If they are asked to talk about your biggest accomplishments on the job, they might say it was when you drank more than everyone at the Christmas party. Try to avoid adding coworkers to your list of references if you can.
Do any volunteering? Worked with a business coach? These people know you purely as a colleague. They are ideal candidates for a list of references.
Before you submit your list of references, the most important thing I can tell you is that you must call each and every person on it and confirm that they are cool with being a reference for you. Those surprise calls never go very well for the prospective employee.
A list of references isn’t the only way we figure out if the person we are interviewing is the right one for the job. That takes a certain kind of intuition. And a good nose.