You applied to a position and have run the interview gamut – you’ve had an initial phone screen, a follow-up phone screen, an initial in-person interview, a follow-up in-person interview, and a final interview – Phew!

You’ve talked about your career, your ambitions, your salary requirements and your future. You love them and they love you.

Casually, they ask you for references – the final step in the selection process. You’ve come this far and now it is crucial you take the final step with the same level of professionalism and confidence that brought you here. But can you? Do you have the right references? What will they say about you? Are you positive that is what they will say about you?

It is important to handle references appropriately. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. Contact your most recent direct supervisor(s) and ask to use them as a reference. Your new employer will most likely insist on talking to a recent supervisor before all other people.
  2. Ask them what they see as your greatest strength(s) and greatest weakness. It’s better that you find out what they will say now . Alternatively, you can ask for a letter of recommendation. This will give you a sense of how passionately they speak of your strengths, though it will not provide insight on weaknesses they may discuss.  Letters of recommendation are not taken as seriously as phone references since your new employer knows you are a filter between your old employer and them and people tend to be less candid about their concerns in a letter format.
  3. Once you have provided your references to a company, let your references know that they may be contacted soon. Ask them to please return the call promptly – a lot of references do not return calls for extended periods of time, and this can ruin the sense of urgency that your future company may have to bring you on board.

Keep these things in mind when responding to a company’s request for references:

  1. Provide phone numbers and email addresses to your two or three most recent direct supervisors. Think about which references will be most relevant to this potential employer and which references will speak to your strengths. Companies find it peculiar when people list references from several years back and do not provide the most recent contacts.
  2. Unless specifically requested, do not include personal or peer references.

If you follow these items, you can ensure the final step goes smoothly and increase your chances on getting a job offer.

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