Line Your Ducks Up & Prepare Your References |

In this video, Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter Explains exactly when to contact your references and how to coach them into a great reference for you.

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I want to talk with you today about preparing your references. Most people prepare their references around the time they are getting the job offer which is really too late. You are going to be feeling a certain amount of stress. You are going to have to suddenly scramble to find these folks. You may unintentionally offer up some names and contact information for people who are not necessarily your biggest fans.

So, I want to start by saying, first of all, if you going to provide someone as a reference, talk with them at the beginning of your job search, not at the critical juncture where you have to provide a reference. Be prepared with their current organization, their job title, phone number and email address.

Talk with them about how they should describe your work. Find out the positives. Find out about some of the critical things they might say, not because you want to eradicate them, but you consider it useful information for you to have. Many organizations are going to ask about weaknesses; you might as well find out directly from one of your references what they might say. If they say something extremely critical, extremely destructive, well, frankly, it's better to know about at the beginning of your search than when you need to provide a reference, right?

So, find out at the beginning of the search what these folks will say about you. Provide contact information. When you get down to the point where you actually providing them with their name and contact information as a reference, let them know who's in a probably going to be calling, whether it's going to be someone from the firm, a recruiter like me (I no longer do recruiting) because, sometimes, my clients ask me to do the reference checks for them, whether it might be an outside service checking the reference.

Confirm dates. Confirm what they'll say about your dates, your title, things along those lines with them as you did at the beginning of the interview. Here is the critical thing – – talk with them about some of the things that you said in the interview, some of the themes that you've offered up to describe your work.

For example, if you are on a project that was considered a critical project and delivered it two weeks early, you might be able to tell the potential employer that this person's going to be very able talk about how you are able to deliver a project early that no one else was getting anywhere near delivering at all – – you get the idea. Maybe not that example, but what the special characteristics are that this person might be able to talk about.

It's not that your references are going to guarantee that you get more money but they certainly can guarantee that you don't get hired or that the offer is a neutral offer. After all, if someone says, “He was okay,” in that tone of voice, well, there’s a message that and employer hears in that. They don't know that that person might be in the middle a meeting is trying to be helpful and is distracted by five people in their office. They just know, “Well, he was okay.”

You don’t want references ever given like that. You might just simply see if you can schedule a date and time for them to talk, things along those lines that preclude those sorts of issues.

So, again, in summary, establish your references at the beginning of your job search and not at the end. Find out what people will say about you pro and con. Make sure that you alert people to the prospect of getting a call at around the time that you expect they will be getting phone calls and who those calls might be from. Lastly, make sure you let them know some of the themes that you’ve talked about in your interviews so they can be consistent and tell stories related to some of those themes.


Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a career and leadership coach who worked as a recruiter for what more than 40 years. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1200 episodes, “Job Search Radio,” “and his newest show, “No BS Coaching Advice” and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

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