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 specifically indicate professional references must be submitted. If you are in an interview, but have not yet been asked for references, the topic may come up. This is especially true if you are being seriously considered for the position. So, what it the proper way to handle requests for professional references?
Why and who?
First, let’s look at why applicants are asked for professional references and who should these individuals should be. Remember, to an interviewer, you are an unknown and unproven entity. In this situation, 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 and can speak to your work quality. They can report on how well you performed in a similar position or setting. The interviewer would like to actually talk with a number of people who are able to confirm your employment history. If these people are willing to stick their necks out to vouch for you, great! He or she will feel that due diligence has been done in vetting you. Yes, interviewers are aware you will likely provide the names of people who will (or should) say only good things. More about that later.
Let’s look at some suggestions to help ensure your list of references is helpful rather than harmful. Continue reading