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References 101 | Part 2

Nowadays, most employers ask for you to provide them with at least three references. Most people ask the same question, “Do they actually call and check those?” The answer is almost always YES, yes they do.  Picking the right references and asking those people to be a reference can be a task in and of itself.  On the employer side of things, checking those references can be daunting and time-consuming, but as we lay out below, neither has to be true.

How to Check References

Ask for feedback

Touch base with everyone who has spoken to the candidate. Ask them what they think, what their concerns are, and what they would like you to follow up on. The goal here is to then mold your questions around what you are hearing and get as much out of the third-party reference than you could from the candidate.

Make sure you are clear with the candidate on what types of people you want to hear from. If you want to know more about their leadership skills, make sure to ask them to provide you with a supervisor or manager to better answer the questions you have involving that skillset.

Be prepared

Assume the call will take an hour. It won’t, but if you are better prepared to take that amount of time you won’t feel rushed and neither will the reference. The goal here is to take your time, dig in deep with their references, and ask any and all questions you have. It’s ok to stray from your pre-written questions and ask other follow-ups as the call goes on.

Describe the job

Describe to the reference what you are looking for and ask if the candidate was under the same circumstances when they worked together. Example: “We are seriously considering Ellen for our Regional Sales Manager opportunity. In this role, she will have to travel often and meet a goal of $3 million in sales. Is this similar to what she was doing when she worked with you? How did she handle it? Did she overcome obstacles? Did she hit her goal?

Open-ended questions ONLY

Ask very specific open-ended questions; instead of “Did (the candidate) do a good job when working with you?” ask something more along the lines of “I understand that your company is goal-oriented and competitive can you tell me how (the candidate) handled that environment on a daily basis?” Another way to ask is “I understand (the candidate) helped implement a new training process. Can you tell me what (his/her) role specifically was in that project?”

These questions leave it open for the reference to formulate a deep and detailed answer about what specifically the candidate did, what their skills and abilities are, and how he or she could be an asset to your company. This also opens it up for them to give any negative feedback they may have.

Soft skills

After you have the facts on the skills, abilities, and contributions of the employee, be sure to ask about their soft skills. Soft skills cover the candidate’s personality, how they handle day-to-day stress, how they speak to vendors, clients, and customers, as well as how easy they are to get along with within the office. These traits are just as important as other skills and abilities more closely related to getting the job done correctly.

References are an essential and vital part of hiring the best employees for your business. They should be one of several pillars that construct your decision to move forward or not with the candidate. Make sure you are taking your time with them and get all the information you can.

For information on how to ask someone to be a reference for you read this blog post.

 

References 101 | Part 1

Nowadays, most employers ask for you to provide them with at least three references. Most of us ask the same question, “Do they actually call and check those?” The answer is almost always YES, yes they do.  Picking the right references and asking those people to be a reference can be a task in and of itself.  On the employer side of things, checking those references can be daunting and time-consuming, but as we lay out below, neither has to be true.

How to Ask Someone to be Your Reference

Choose wisely 

Choose people who will give you an exceptional reference, people you had positive experiences with. This does not mean they have to be former employers. It could be a client or vendor, a co-worker, or a professor. If you have limited business contacts, use a personal reference, someone who can speak strongly to your character, demeanor, and abilities.

Be careful how you ask

Don’t just ask “Will you be a reference for me?” Instead, ask something along the lines of “Do you feel comfortable providing me with a reference?” This gives the person the opportunity to decline if they feel they would not be able to give you an outstanding reference.

Give them all pertinent information

Make sure they know what kind of jobs you are applying for and what companies could be calling them. This gives them the opportunity to prepare their thoughts and speak to what the company will be most interested in.

Put your request in writing

Be sure to send an email with all of the information in it when you ask for them to be your reference. This gives them something in black and white to reference and allows them to answer truthfully. Be sure to include your name in the subject line so that the email gets opened and read.

Be Professional

When sending your email to ask for the request, be sure to sound professional.  Check the email for spelling and grammatical errors, and if need be ask someone to edit for you. Remember you are asking for a professional reference, you need to be professional in the request.

Say Thank You

Be sure you say thank you in your email as well. You are asking them to take time out of their busy schedule to do you a favor and help you get a job. Be sure to thank them for everything!

EXAMPLE:

Dear Steve,

I hope everything is well on your end and that you’re enjoying a busy 3rd quarter.  I wanted to touch base with you to ask for help in my job search. I am in the process of looking for a new position as my current position is being eliminated.

I would like to ask your permission to use you as a reference who can speak to my skills, qualifications, and abilities. I would always advise you when your name and contact information is given out this way you know who to expect a phone call from. I would also share what type of position it is, and what they are looking for.

I really appreciate your time and efforts in this and look forward to hearing from you soon.  Also, if you know of any openings that I may be qualified for I would appreciate the help.

Thank you,

(signature)

For information on how to check references read this blog post.