Today, we’ll focus on the strategy of selecting the right mix of references. For other, more general information about professional references, check out our past Daily Leap blog entries.
First, consider the information your references can provide about you from a professional context. What do they know of your qualifications and working style in various circumstances? For example, have they worked with you in a large organization or a small start-up environment? Is it someone you’ve worked with on multiple projects or just one significant project? Do they have years of experience working with you or just a few months? Were there special circumstances that warrant mentioning a particular reference, for example, did you work together during a particularly challenging downsizing?
Make sure you use a mix of references who can speak to the skills required for the type of job you’re pursuing. It is not necessary that all your references can speak to all your skills; however, you should have at least one reference who can speak to several. Include others who are familiar with your most critical skills. For example, if you’re pursuing a management position, include at least two references who can talk positively about your leadership abilities.
Roles and Timespan
Be sure to include both managers and colleagues as references and, if applicable, at least one reference who reported to you. Provide a combination of references from your current and past work history, but if much time has elapsed, select people you still maintain some level of contact with.
Make sure you select references that can interact well in a telephone conversation or e-mail. Although a particular reference might hold you in high regard, if he/she doesn’t communicate well, that person will not be the best reference.