What drives employers’ hiring decisions? Skills? Experience? Education? While all of these factors are important, the most important quality that leads to job offers is confidence.
Employers hire people who make them feel confident. Job seekers must interview in a way that makes the hiring manager believe they can do the job. Beyond that, however, references make employers believe you have what they need. For that reason, you need to choose wisely when asking people to be your reference.
Former supervisors often make the worst references, especially if you left a job on bad terms. Only list your most recent boss after asking that person if he or she will say good things about you. If you cannot ask that question or you cannot trust this person, look in other places. Former supervisors, co-workers, customers, vendors – anyone who knows your work is a potential reference.
A good reference must have the ability to sell you as a valuable employee. Recruit references who know your worth as a professional. Be sure that they are aware of your current career goals and the kind of jobs you will be pursuing. Never tell your references what to say about you, but you can ask what they will say and suggest some more specific points that could help them present you in the best light.
Ask your references to review a copy of your resume, which will let them know how you are presenting yourself to employers. They also might notice some good selling points that you failed to include. Finally, your references could even pass the resume along to someone they know who could help you land a job. Think of your references as part of your network – in most cases, its most important members.
What should you give to your references? First, let them know that you appreciate what they are doing for you. When you land a job, send each reference a thank you card or small gift. Beyond that, make it clear that you want to return the favor they have done for you. You want to help them.
Good references don’t just know what you do; they have faith in you. Their confidence will help your next employer believe in you. It will also make that person offer you the job.