In 2016, you may not think managing references warrants much time. Between researching job opportunities online, interviewing, and networking, your plate is full. Yet a reference can still make or break a job offer, and you can’t automatically assume you’ll get a good one, even if your tenure at your company passed without a hiccup.

“About half of all references that get checked receive an assessment of mediocre to poor,” says Heidi Allison of Allison & Taylor, a professional reference checking firm.* Read on for five steps on how to ensure your references are as strong as possible

1.Recognize their hidden benefits to you. By staying in touch with your references and letting them know what you’re up to, you’re networking. You’ll keep your professional relationships alive and well, and you never know…in a few years, this person could be at a new company as a future employer or a potential partner in a new venture. A reference is more than just a ticket to a new job.positive references

2.Choose Your References Carefully. You should select references who know you well, can communicate your strengths to others clearly, and 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 tell a prospective employer about both your personal character and your work competencies is the perfect choice for a reference. References can also be colleagues — someone you’ve worked with in a cross-functional team is ideal. And don’t forget about subordinates — they can speak to your leadership and mentoring skills.  In a pinch, a customer or vendor with whom you’ve worked extensively could also be a great reference.

3.Prepare for the Reference Call.  Before a prospective employer contacts the references, you want to track down their correct contact information, update them on your career since you worked together, and review what they might share with a prospective employer.

4.Don’t Give Them Up Too Soon.  Provide your references only when a prospective employer asks for them; don’t just add them to the end of your resume. First, you want to make a good impression with a new employer through your cover letter, resume, and interview(s). This time also gives you the opportunity to discuss with the prospective employer any previous employment situation that could appear to be negative before it is revealed by one of your references.

5.Thank Them. People like to help but also want to be appreciated. Call them to thank them for their assistance, or send a thank you card. Your references are important, and showing your appreciation will help solidify your relationship with them and make them eager to help you again.

To help you manage your references more effectively, please click here to download our free Template.

  • Aspire has worked with Allison & Taylor on several occasions and they did an excellent job.