Whether you’re interviewing for a job or trying to entice a new client, don’t take your references for granted. They will be a big factor in influencing your success.

You need to spend enough time and energy cultivating and selling your references, too.

If you haven’t already, do a personal SWOT analysis of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Your resume or CV should, naturally, should market your achievements and how you provided value. That goes for the interview process, too.

No shortcuts

But to maximize your chances, make sure your references do the job, as well. Third-party endorsements are quite valuable.

So don’t take shortcuts with your references.

Make sure you have credible, quality references. Savvy employers will research the quality of your references.

See to it your references are very familiar with your achievements. Protect your turf.

Act as if you have outstanding competitors so you must take precautions to make sure they do an outstanding job in answering questions about you.

Before selecting references, write down your list of achievements.

Selecting references

Think about who is best able to verify each of your strengths.

You’ll need great communicators – people who are businesslike and know when and what to say succinctly.

Windbags won’t work because when they talk too much, they create more questions and doubt in the minds of interviewers.

Choose from your list of contacts from executives and bosses to your former co-workers and subordinates.

Show consideration – ask for an appointment before asking for their endorsement.

Then, be certain they know about your approach in marketing yourself.

Prepping references

Provide them a resume and illustrate your achievements so they know what to stress to your prospective headhunters and employers.

Quality people might be very busy, but they’re usually honored to be asked to be a reference in your behalf.

When you ask them for permission, be direct: Will you endorse my achievement(s).

Make certain your reference won’t provide too much information. Proactive interviewers will ask your reference for names of other people who know you.

Windbags won’t work because when they talk too much, they create more questions and doubt in the minds of interviewers.

You might not want them to suggest names of people who would hurt your cause – people with whom you’ve had a toxic relationship.

Even if there’s only a remote possibility, approach those people anyway. Admit the two of you have had fireworks and ask the person to consider being a reference for you.

Usually these people will agree to be a reference, which means you now have a workable communication. But don’t list the persons as references. They might be contacted anyway so take preventative action just in case.

Anticipating questions

Prep your references so they’re prepared to adequately answer logical questions by interviewers. Coach them if necessary.

Note: The person should be prepared for mostly open-ended questions, not questions requiring a yes or no answer.

They include:

  1. How did you meet the person?
  2. How well do you know the person?
  3. Why did the person leave the employer?
  4. Was the person put on an improvement plan? How’d it go?
  5. What are the person’s strengths?
  6. What were the greatest accomplishments?
  7. What are the person’s weaknesses?
  8. Would the person ever be re-hired?
  9. Who were the supervisors?
  10. Did the person meet expectations?
  11. What type of leadership skills does the person have?
  12. How was the person’s approach to working with co-workers? Was there mutual respect?
  13. Tell me about the person’s punctuality and dependability.
  14. What else would you like to mention about the person?

Stay in touch with your references. Keep them apprised. Be gracious in showing your appreciation. In addition to any verbal communication, a well-written thank you note is the right thing to do.

From the Coach’s Corner, here more comprehensive job-hunting tips:

Guidelines for an Effective CV to Land Your Ideal Job — If you’re pursuing a career in academia or research, you know a curriculum vitae (CV) is a basic requirement to get consideration for a position. It’s also applicable when applying for fellowships or grants. Here are best practices for a CV.

Job Hunting? Tips to Land Your Dream Job with Style, Substance — Yes, the competition for jobs is ferocious. Here are proven tips to be hired for your dream job.

Discouraged in Job Hunting? Powerful Tips for the Best Job — Whether unemployed or under-employed, a person needs two things: A sense of hope and the right tools to negotiate a job. Here are both.

Job Search: 15 Tips to Improve Your Odds — If you are unemployed, you are probably feeling desperate. But take heart. Here are 15 proven strategies.

Best 11 Tips for a Super Elevator Pitch — Whether you’re looking for a job or more customers for your business, one skill you definitely need is a great elevator pitch. Here are 11 tips.

Praying for a Job? Key Questions to Ask Interviewers — Employers prefer inquisitive applicants. It shows their interest in a company and communication abilities. There are two benefits if you ask the right questions in a job interview. Firstly, you shine compared to your competing job seekers. Secondly, you get the right information to make the best decisions.

Career Advice — Avoid Applying for Jobs Online — As a job-hunter you know that a significant number of companies, nonprofits and public-sector agencies use an online tracking system to accept applications and screen out applicants. It cuts down on their paper work and saves them time. If you must apply for jobs online, you can take steps to stand out from the competing applicants to sail through human-resources filtering systems.

“Make sure your worst enemy doesn’t live between your two ears.”

-Laird Hamilton


Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

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