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How to Create a Good Reference List


Job candidates need so many tools to do an effective job search; a good résumé, an attractive cover letter, thorough preparation for interviews and of course, a great reference list. Many job candidates however overlook the importance of a reference list and how it plays a part in the big picture.

Your reference list serves a purpose to confirm the information you provide in your cover letter and résumé, and it allows your potential employer glean in on information he can’t find no matter how hard he scours different search engines.

This is so because the people you include on your reference list will help the potential employer have a clearer idea of who you are; perhaps you successfully feigned expertise or portrayed an admirable charisma during the interview, your potential employer can easily detect this by speaking with your references.

Who should be on your reference list?
A reference list brings to memory the age-long process of marriage in the African traditional setting, where families of the husband go around the prospective wife’s village or environment to gather background information from people unrelated to the woman.

So here goes; your reference list shouldn’t have personal contacts – of your father, siblings, relatives or friends – especially if you have no real work experience with them. Potential employers think of these personal contacts as your get away ticket to the job because your father would most likely sing your praise to any potential employer knowing your job depends on it.
You can include the contact information of your former boss, a colleague, your mentor, direct supervisor, clients you’ve worked with etc.  Note it that your choice of reference is very important.

Getting Started:
 Don’t wait until you are asked for a reference list. That you have “references available on request” in your résumé gives you no excuse to wait for that request. Compiling a list at the time potential employers want it only gives you limited time to really get the best of references.

Start compiling right before the interview, most recruiters suggest you bring it with you to the interview. It shows you have good organisational skills – that you know what to do without being asked to.

Weigh your options
Potential employers contact references to draw out information on the candidate’s; strengths and weaknesses, professional conduct, attitude with co-workers, accomplishments, duration of employment, personal character, attendance, general observation of work ethics etc. Bearing these in mind;

Write down a list of people you think can provide accurate information and are also your biggest fans.

Next, write a few more; just to make sure you have people you can quickly reach if those on your first list are unavailable.

Call your prospects and make your request to include them on the list. Make sure you do this before you hand the list to your potential employer. Not many people appreciate cold calls and surprising your references with such calls may backfire.

After your references agree, you can do some preparation with them by asking them certain questions, depending on your relationship with each person. Asking your own questions helps you gauge your value as each reference sees it. This will help you adjust your expectations and give you the advantage to alternate your choice of reference(s) if the need arises.

Give your references updates especially when you can sense your potential employers might contact them soon; it prepares their minds towards the time of call.

Show appreciation even if your contacts were not called, it shows you are grateful for their concern and respect them.

What to include in a reference list.
Name of reference, company, email address and phone number.

You may include a brief description of your work experience with each person to give your potential employers some basic guidelines on what to ask each reference. It shows you are open and puts you in good light.

Most importantly, since the impact and greatness of a reference list depends on people, you need to have a good work relationship with co-workers, clients, your boss and that stranger you don’t know. Some potential employers go as far as calling people who may have something to say about you but are not on your reference list.

Also remember that a reference list is not the first thing you need to ace an interview but it requires as much effort to help you get that job.

What do you think about references and reference lists?







Nathan Jeffery
Notification Bell