References: Often the Last Step Prior to an Offer

from ExecuNet

The importance of a good reference can vary from company to company. For many employers a weak reference may not cost you the job but won’t put you at the top either while a strong one can help you nail it. Usually by the time hiring managers get to this phase they’ve already formed an opinion about how you’d perform at the job and are merely seeking verification of their opinions.

Be prepared with two to three stellar references. Prospective employers usually don’t contact them all, and you never know which ones they’ll reach out to. The best references you can provide are your current or former bosses and potentially someone who conducted your regular performance evaluations (if different from your boss). That’s because prospective employers want to know about your strengths and weaknesses, your work ethic, whether you’re easy to work with and how you deal with adversity

Avoid surprises by asking your former bosses if they’re sure they’ll feel comfortable serving as references. That’s particularly important because a growing number of companies have policies that their employees can’t do more than confirm that someone worked there and what their title was. They do this to avoid any chance of getting sued.

Some people tell hiring managers that they’re allowed only to give neutral references, and that their reticence mustn’t be taken as positive or negative. The most common questions asked are: Was the person aware of his/her weaknesses, and how did he handle them? Can you tell me about his/her style? What was working with him/her like?

Send your references a copy of the specific job description or even the job advertisement, so they can understand the position you’re in the running for. Give them feedback about the interview you had as well so they are prepared for any random questions.

(ExecuNet is a trusted executive network committed to the career-long success of the $100K+ executive, providing network opportunities and critical insights to accelerate your executive career and job search success.)