Monday, July 1, 2013

Professional References - Choose Wisely

References play a critical part of the candidate evaluation process.   At Apparel Resource we complete references checks for employers when they have a sincere interest in our candidates.  After speaking with a candidate’s reference,  we present a write up.  This happens after an onsite interview but prior to an offer being extended.   The references are usually reviewed by all of the people who will have a vote in whether to extend an offer or not.  Often, it is the last document they review before deciding to extend an offer.  We have seen excellent references have a positive impact on the decision to hire and sometimes even salary.  Unfortunately if references are not strong they can have a negative impact on a candidate.

If you are asked for references you need to think very carefully about who you select.  We typically look for a blend of references:  someone who you have reported to, someone who has reported to you, a peer and a cross functional colleague.  Your references need to be able to speak SPECIFICALLY  about your contributions on the job. 

We have had candidates select references from the work place that they spend time with socially….the reference loves the candidate personally and can’t say enough about what a great person they are but often can’t speak specifically to job performance.  This does not give the hiring manager material to support extending an offer.

Make sure you select a reference who will take the time to really speak to your abilities.  Sometimes we get a reference on the phone who gives one word answers and to draw out any more is like pulling teeth.  For example….one of our questions is:  "Is Amy able to meet deadlines and produce quality work under intense workloads?"   A good reference will not only say YES but will back up the answer with examples.

When you ask someone to be your reference make sure they understand this means they will be getting at least one call that will last 20 to 40 minutes.  It does not reflect well on you as a candidate when your references seem to not have time to visit.   Make sure you select someone who sincerely WANTS to be your advocate.   Select references who will return calls, emails promptly and who ideally would be able to schedule a call to complete the reference within 24 hours of being contacted.

Select colleagues who are well spoken, professional and stay on topic.   You should also select references that you have worked with in the past 5 years.  If it was longer than that, they rarely are able to remember specifics.

Do you have current references that you are comfortable with?   Have you ever been asked to be a reference?  Think about the questions you were asked and who would be able to speak to your performance.  What is the best reference question you have heard?

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