References. Your advocates on the job search. No, you don’t have to reach out to your references before your next interview, but it might be to your advantage. After all, these individuals can decide your next job offer.
In the next few minutes, you will learn why to check in with your references and what to say.
Reason number 1: Keep your reference connected to you
Your best reference may be your boss from a job you left 4 years ago, but 4 years is a long time to go without speaking with someone. If you ask for a reference out of the blue, this person may feel slightly used, even if this person is a big fan of yours.
Worse yet is not to ask. If you simply list this person’s name without talking to him, he won’t be ready when HR calls to ask about you.
So reach out to your references to see how they are doing. It’s still worth reconnecting for a cup of coffee or an informal call, even if only a couple months have passed.
Keep the relationship strong. Ask questions about how they are doing both personally and professionally. Listen to the answers so that the next time you check in, you are ready follow up.
Reason number 2: Ensure your references really like you
Your references should be individuals who would advocate on your behalf, people who will sing your praises. If they don’t speak positively when called by your potential employer... it will hurt your chances.
If you feel like your interviews have gone extremely well, but the job offers aren’t showing up, one thing to double check is that your references are actually acting as your advocates.
When you speak with your reference, ask the question, “If you were in my shoes, how would you describe my strengths?” If they have a hard time giving an answer, you may want to look for a replacement (and if they seem overzealous in discussing your weaknesses, that’s also a good warning sign).
Also, if this person isn’t interested in catching up with you, or doesn’t pay attention to you on your catch-up call, you should look around for another option.
Reason number 3: Get a boost of confidence from a friend
Your references are often people who really care about your success. So when you reach out to them, you may discover your professional cheerleaders who remind you of your on-the-job value.
You can ask them a question like, “If you were in my shoes, how would you describe my strengths?” Their answer could be a quick shot in the arm for your confidence.
Reason number 4: Make sure they hit the high points
You may want your reference to highlight specific skills of yours, especially if you check in after the interview is over. You may realize that there are specific experiences or skills that are important to this organization, which you want your reference to echo.
Whether it’s before the interview or after, you can still use this conversation to remind him of the projects you worked on together and the results of those projects (after all, people sometimes forget things).
For instance, if you are being hired as a project manager, you may want him to mention your organizational and people management skills. Remember to use soft language to make such a request, “If you wouldn’t mind talking about my organizational and people management skills, that could be especially valuable.”
Remember, if you haven’t reached out to your references in a while, just a short check-in conversation can make a big difference before your next interview.