Are You Making the Most of Your Job References?

This guest post is by Jeff Shane of AllisonTaylor, which specializes in checking references for corporations and individuals.

As the 2013 begins, many people have kicked off the year with the resolution to change or improve their employment status. It’s not surprising; according to polls, one of the top 10 most popular New Year’s resolutions is job-related.

We know that job seekers are constantly searching for tips and guidance on the best ways to stand out in a competitive job market. The traditional methods used in job-hunting are changing, and the principals at Allison & Taylor have recently identified several new trends related to job references through discussions with over 1,500 employers that you should know about.

  • References have become more valuable. Many people treat their reference list as an afterthought, but it’s actually a critical part of the process.  A resume will get an interview, but it’s the report that former references provide that will win the job in a close race with another qualified candidate. Although the job market is poised to grow, hiring managers generally have a surplus of eligible candidates and will take the time to carefully examine candidate’s credentials. It has become vital to create a well-thought-out reference list, with full contact information, and presented as a matching and professional addendum to a resume.
  • The format of references have changed. Whereas the standard approach was to offer a simple list of references and their contact information, savvy job seekers are now modernizing their reference lists to make a powerful statement of their qualifications for the new position. An effective reference list will identify those attributes the references can attest to, an approach that offers several benefits to the job seeker. It allows them to further showcase their abilities and achievements with former employers, and to tie those qualifications in with the key job elements sought by prospective new employers. When offered to a potential employer — e.g., at the close of an interview — a well-crafted reference document will make a powerful and proactive statement on the job seeker’s behalf.
  • Employers will use peers and subordinates as references. Many job seekers assume that an employer will only check with human resources or a former supervisor for references. It’s a potentially disastrous assumption; especially in this challenging economy, employers feel they have the luxury of checking less-traditional references such as peers and co-workers. This can work to a candidate’s advantage if they strive for successful work relationships. Associates like a supportive second-level supervisor or a matrix managers can be key advocates on a job seeker’s behalf, and might be more supportive than traditional references like immediate supervisors. (Note: A prospective employer does not require permission to check any reference.)
  • Employers are using technology to evaluate candidates. Many employers are using electronic reference systems, which rank an employee’s performance on a scale. While it is comprehensive and factual, it has the downside of limiting the opportunity employers have to favorably assess a candidate. A smart job seeker will have negotiated the terms of their reference upon departure from any company. They also need to review social media sites to ensure a prospective employer is not viewing any inappropriate or private commentary about them.

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