Now that you’ve mastered your resume and cover letter, it’s time to think about references. In addition to the former two, a potential employer will most likely ask you for a list of references. Here’s a few tips for how to make yours perfect.
First of all, your references should be listed on a page separate from your other application materials. Also, format your list so that it matches the font on your resume and cover letter. Keep the style consistent. When listing your references, include the complete contact information for each name: job title, employer or place of business, business address, email address, and phone number. Also, in a short note, you should briefly describe their relationship to you. Describe how the contact knows you, or perhaps detail a project you worked on together, or describe a skill of yours that this person can vouch for. Giving your hiring manager just a little bit of context will help provide a springboard for conversation, should they ever speak to the person you listed.
The other thing to consider is how many references to include. For most people, it is good to list about three to four references, while those seeking more senior or management level positions should list about five to seven. And be sure to list your strongest or closest references first. As for figuring out who to include on this list, these people should know you well and should be able to attest to your skills and strengths. They don’t always have to be bosses or supervisors. Rather, they can be co-workers, clients, professors, or other peers—so long as they have an intimate knowledge of your working skills. Also, professional references are always favored over personal ones. Do not include family, friends, or neighbors on your list.
Most importantly, you should make sure to stay in touch and build a relationship with your references. Ask for their permission to include their names on your list. If a lot of time has passed since you last communicated, be sure to reconnect with them. It’s vital to stay close with these people if you want them to one day give you a good recommendation. If you leave a job, express your gratitude to your former supervisor or other co-workers with thank you notes. You may eventually call on these people to help you find your next job!
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