Most employers won’t call your references unless you are the final candidate for the job. Therefore, I don’t recommend listing or offering references prior to being asked. You can let the employer know you have references, and you should be prepared to provide them quickly, but I wouldn’t offer them unsolicited. I usually recommend your references appear on one sheet. I usually recommend that this information be included for each reference, and that at least three references be provided:
- Reference’s name
- Reference’s current Job title
- Reference’s current employer
- Reference’s current employer’s City and State
- Company or other venue where you worked together (their company may have been your client or vice versa)
- Reference’s Phone and/or cell number
- Reference’s E-mail address
- Reference’s Relationship to you, the applicant (again, explain the link – for example, if you were both subcontractors to the same contractor)
Although no more than three references are typically required, there are some instances where this is not the case. For sensitive government or government contractor positions, more extensive references may be required. Additionally, new reference assessment tools, like Checkster are becoming more common and these will require a minimum of 8 references.
Some candidates have trouble selecting the three best references for a particular position. It’s acceptable to ask the HR representative who requested the reference what kind of references they would like, but this can be create problems if you can’t meet their expectation. For example, if they say “we would strongly prefer all three references be from former supervisors” and you’ve only had 3 jobs – you don’t want to offer your current boss for obvious reasons, and one of your prior bosses you didn’t get along with well – you might have a problem that didn’t exist before you asked.
If you don’t want to create problems for yourself, it is generally a good idea to diversify your references, but stay as relevant to the position as possible. At least one of the three should be a former supervisor, and it’s good if one is currently, or was previously, employed in the same industry as the prospective employer. Finally, it is a good idea to have one that currently, or previously, performed the same function as the job you are seeking. It is perfectly acceptable to use a reference of someone who is no longer employed by the company where you both worked together. The most important factor in a strong reference is that they can vouch for your character and job performance.
Whenever you expect that your references may be contacted, it’s important to reconnect with each reference as soon as possible and let them know that they will receive a call from a human resources recruiter, or a hiring manager. Give your references the information they need to be a good reference for you:
- The name of the company
- The title of the position
- The expectations the company has for the position
- Your primary qualifications for the position
- Key statements you would like your references to offer
Be sure to send a thank you letter to your references after they have provided the reference.