Are References Necessary?
In today’s competitive job market, having high-quality references may be the one factor that sways the organization to your side. So, it becomes very important that you have the best possible list available during your job search. As you're choosing references for job applications, just who are some of the best candidates?
Ideally, the best references are as enthusiastic about you and your skills as you are. Since being a reference is a voluntary activity, hopefully your references will provide information to a prospective employer about your talents, abilities and achievements in a way that matches what the employer is looking for. Just saying that you are a “good guy" and “nice to deal with" isn’t really that valuable, though it won't hurt you. Those types of descriptions are too vague and not descriptive enough. Plus, you're relying on the employer to use some follow-up questions with your reference to get at more information, which may or may not happen.
So the goal here is to cut down on that happening and to attempt to control what your reference is likely to say. You want to cultivate references that will communicate - in writing and over the phone - in a professional way exactly what you need. You don’t want your references, or even the prospective employer, to over-think the conversation. It should be a pleasanty brief dialogue. Hopefully, what’s being communicated by the reference is an affirmation of what the employer thought about you in advance of the call to the reference.
So what kind of references should you pursue? The first step is to think about your previous and current job positions, and determine just what you do that would be so valuable to another employer that could be reinforced by a reference.