Job references are more important than you might think. Many job applicants consider job references a slam dunk: Choose three people who will praise you glowingly, hand the names over to your prospective employer, and sit back and wait for the job offer.

It isn’t that easy. And, it’s no mere formality. Instead, the job-reference stage of your job-acquisition process is crucial, and can finalize your candidacy in more ways than one. Here are five steps to follow during the job-reference phase to keep you in line to get that new job:

  • Know Your References. Of course, you know who they are, but it is essential to talk to your potential references at length to know exactly what they might say about you, to iron out any issues involving you that might have occurred during the time your potential reference and you shared together in the workplace, and to fill them in on any new developments in your professional career.
  • Choose Them Carefully. You should select references who really do know you well, who speak clearly, and can think quickly when asked a question they might not expect. Someone who has supervised you, who has worked with you for a number of years, and who can illuminate a prospective employer about both your personal character and your work skills, ethic, and attitude can be the perfect choice for a reference.
  • Keep Your References on Hold. It’s important to wait to distribute the names of your references until the right time. Don’t just add them to the end of your resume. Don’t offer them up until your prospective employer asks for them. First, you want to make a good impression on a new employer through your cover letter, resume, and interview(s). This also will give you the opportunity to discuss any situations during previous employments that might appear to be negative, if first revealed by one of your references.
  • It’s Not Always Their Fault. Even if you have the best references, who do an outstanding job of promoting your candidacy, you still might not get the job. A prospective employer isn’t restricted to calling just your references. And, don’t be surprised if they contact others from your workplace and previous employments who aren’t included on your list of references.
  • Show Your Appreciation. Immediately. Call your references to thank them for their assistance, whether you get the job or not. Send them thank you cards, and don’t hesitate to take them out to lunch. Your references are important, and showing your appreciation will help solidify your relationship with them, and make them eager to help you again.

 To access our free Reference Template, please click here