WorkVine®: The One Person to Leave Off Your Reference List

By Robert Half on August 18, 2020 at 4:00pm

Robert Half's WorkVine® blog series addresses the lighter side of the workplace, with fun topics to help you get through the workday.

While writing a standout resume and cover letter is obviously very important when you’re searching for a job, there’s another document that also matters: your reference list. Employment offers are not written in stone, and poorly chosen references can sink your chances of getting the job you worked so hard to land.

While it should go without saying, including yourself on your own reference list is a major mistake. Employers have little time or patience for playfulness when they’re in the final stages of the hiring process. Here are a few more reference list tips:

Choose wisely

As you review your list of potential references, ask yourself some questions about each individual. Is the person familiar with your recent work and current skills? Are they enthusiastic? 

Request permission

Never assume a former manager or colleague can (or will) put in a good word for you. Regardless of how well you got along, always ask if it’s OK before including anyone’s name on your reference list.

Offer support materials to your references

Provide your references with an updated copy of your resume and a detailed description of the company and job you’re pursuing.

Tailor your reference list

Just as you might target your resume and cover letter to the specific position you’re applying for, it’s wise to customize your reference list too. Pick people who can speak knowledgeably (and persuasively) about your skills and abilities most relevant to each job you pursue.

Make the employer’s task easy

Give the prospective employer the full name, job title, phone number and email address of each reference. You also might provide a brief explanation of how you know each person, why you included him or her on your reference list, and the best times to contact the individual.

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