4 Powerful Reasons To Cultivate Great Job References

They're calling your ex-boss. What will she say about you? / iStockphoto.com ( Dmytro Buianskyi )

They're calling your ex-boss. What will she say about you? / iStockphoto.com (Dmytro Buianskyi)

Job references come in several forms - a verbal or written reference, a letter of recommendation, or a short write-up for you to post on your LinkedIn profile.

And they matter – more than you think.

Here are four powerful reasons why you should dedicate the time to cultivating your job references. After all, a positive reference may be your ticket to that job you've always wanted.

  1. Glowing references can overcome a potential employer's doubt. Employers are generally risk-averse by nature, and making a hiring decision can be quite risky; a hiring manager on the fence can be swayed to your favor by an ex-boss sharing the wins you garnered while you worked together.
  2. You can help prepare a reference in order to improve your chances. Before offering up your ex-boss's name and number, speak to your reference about the types of skills and experience your potential employer is looking for, and he or she will be prepared to give appropriate – and favorable – examples.
  3. LinkedIn recommendations build your brand in the employer community. If all of your former managers have written nice things about you for you to share on your LinkedIn profile, they are willing to publicly stake their reputations on you. Isn't that worth something to your brand equity?
  4. By asking for references, you're building your job-hunting network. You may not be on your referral's radar. But they may be willing and able to consider you or refer you for a new job opportunity if they're aware you're on the hunt.

By the way, before giving out anybody's name as a reference, consider the following:

  • Ask permission first. It's better if references know you've given their names, and should expect calls from potential employers. Not only can does this give you an opportunity to gauge their willingness to speak on your behalf, but they are also more likely to return employers' calls if they know to anticipate them.
  • Know what your reference is going to say about you. Here's a true story: I was once recruiting for a senior manager role, and the hiring manager was ready to make an offer to the top candidate. I had asked the candidate for a reference, and he provided me information for his former manager, whom I eventually got on the phone. As we spoke, it quickly became clear that the ex-boss hated the guy, and he gushed at length about the candidate's poor work habits and lousy attitude. Needless to say, we moved on to other individuals. Always ask your reference what he or she would say about you if asked. 

Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.