A great resume and fantastic cover letter will get you an interview. What happens from there has a lot to do with you, and if you nail the interview, then you need to be sure that the final factor in the job search process – your references – are prepared to help you seal the deal.
It used to be standard to put “references on request” on your resume. This had essentially become the norm, but because most employers aren’t really interested in your references until after they’ve met you, you no longer need that line on your resume. But…you do need to ensure your reference list is prepared and ready to hand over to a potential employer during the interview. .
Here is how hiring generally works: The company goes through and picks out a handful of candidates to interview. This is where your outstanding resume and cover letter are so important because it’s all they have to work with at this point. Once your resume is selected, you are scheduled for an interview. It’s after the initial interview that employers begin to check references. What happens here can be the difference between a second interview (or if you really blew them away, an offer) and being removed from consideration.
You not only want to have a list of references ready, but you want the right kind of people on that list. Exclude your mother, doctor, and 3rd grade teacher. What the employer wants are past professional contacts. People who know your work ethic and can speak professionally about your skills and expertise. If you are a recent graduate, you might need to look at the supervisor of your internship or volunteer work. In a pinch, if you have nothing else, check and see if a professor will consent to be a reference.
Always ask the person for permission before using them as a reference. You are not generally required to request the permission of your last boss or supervisor, but it’s a classy touch that can help when they get the call. If possible, let your references know the job you’ve interviewed for, the name of the personal who will be contacting them, and any other significant information. The more prepared your professional references are, the better they will be able to speak on your behalf.