When applying for a position online, you may be asked to attach a file containing the names and contact information for professional references as a required part of your application submission. Even when a computerized online application form is not used, many job postings will specifically indicate a list of professional references must be submitted along with your cover letter and resume. Finally, should you be fortunate enough to find yourself in an interview but have not yet asked for references, the topic may come up at that point, especially if you are being seriously considered for the position. So, what it the proper way to handle requests for professional references?
First, let’s look at why are applicants asked for professional references and who should these individuals should be. Remember, to an interviewer, you are an unknown and unproven entity, and therefore there is always the very real risk of inadvertently making a bad hiring decision; contacting professional references is one way interviewers feel they can help minimize that risk. After all, a professional reference is – or should be – an individual who can attest to your experience, skills, and integrity. The ideal reference is someone who has seen you on the job, can speak to your work quality, and report on how well you performed in a similar position or setting. If the interviewer is able to actually communicate with a number of people who are able to confirm the employment history detailed on your resume, and these folks are willing to stick their necks out and vouch for you, he or she will feel that due diligence has been done in vetting you as a potential new employee. Yes, interviewers are fully aware you will most likely provide the names of people who will (or should) say only good things about you, but more about that later.
Let’s take a look at some suggestions to help ensure your list of professional references is helpful rather than harmful to your job search. Continue reading