The Value of References

The time to start building a list of professional references is far before you start interviewing for your next strategic career move. One of the biggest mistakes candidates make is failing to understand how incredibly important references are to the hiring process. When preparing candidates for the interview, I inform them of the significance of industry references, which are an extension of your personal brand. Unfortunately, candidates often see references as a necessary evil, rather than a valuable tool that can help define your capabilities, strengths, motivations and achievements.

The time invested in engaging past and current colleagues who can serve as professional references should be treated with the same due diligence and enthusiasm that you put into your resume.  A survey by Career Builder showed that 69 percent of employers changed their minds about a candidate after speaking with a reference. The ideal references are from people who have worked closely with you including former managers, clients, colleagues, and direct reports. You should never assume what they are going say about you, but instead take the time to engage them about their views of your job performance and whether they feel you are deserving of a strong recommendation.


Reference Suggestions:

  • Have a list of references ready. This list should include a mixture of bosses, colleagues, and direct reports.  Remember you want them to provide strong testimonials on your behalf.  Choose people who can speak directly to your job performance, achievements, culture fit and motivations.
  • Use recent references. Somebody that you worked with in 1995 won’t be able to speak to your recent experience or current skill set.
  • Help your references offer the best possible endorsement by providing them with information about the role you are being considered for and why you want the job.
  • In speaking with your references make sure you highlight your achievements, skills, and strengths for a particular job you want.
  • Be sure to choose references that are thoughtful, articulate, and responsive.
  • Remember, there is such a thing as a bad reference. Take the time and be diligent in your preparation. This will ensure effective and beneficial references.
  • Make sure your references are available – they may be needed for multiple companies and time can be critical. If they are going to be unavailable, do not use them.


Success lies in the preparation!  For additional job-seeking resources head over to Dennis Partners.