What should job seekers do now to prepare for interviews? Let’s face it, sometimes a long-time job search winds up in an interview scheduled with little lead time.
I believe that the issue of references is one that job seekers overlook. It is important to plan ahead for this part of the search, way before you are actually providing references. Some things to consider…
Do you know what your references are saying about you?
Especially if you have often reached the final stages without landing the job, touching base with those who may hold the keys to your next position is a great idea!
Whom to Ask? Ideally, you should have a current or immediate past employer as a reference. Co-workers and trusted subordinates may also be references, but most hiring managers will want to hear from employers. If you are a student or recently graduated, faculty members may serve as references. If you have had a leadership role in a volunteer organization, “supervisors” from that organization may be good references for you.
Ask permission. Once you have in mind who you’d like to serve, ask their permission. If they seem hesitant or hedge at all, allow them to bow out gracefully. You don’t want to browbeat your references into helping you. (They may hurt more than help.) The best references are those who are enthusiastically supportive.
Prepare your references to support you! Be sure they have the most updated version of your resume and a cover letter for the position if you have one. Let them know if you expect they will be called, and offer suggestions of topics they may want to emphasize.
When I was applying for one of my jobs, I knew that teamwork and the willingness to pitch in when necessary were crucial for my potential employer. I emphasized how I was the perfect match (I really was!) in the interview. I also asked my current supervisor (who knew about my search and was my #1 reference) if she could mention some examples of my teamwork when she spoke to my potential boss, who offered me the job as soon as he spoke to her!
Hopefully, you will have a strong relationship with your references and will be comfortable making them partners in your search. Let’s face it – you can get right to the job’s door by having a great resume and interviewing well. The key to get in is in the hands of those who are willing to recommend you for the job!