If you’re in the process of applying for a new job, a crucial part of getting set up for an interview is having good references. Any reputable company will have your references checked before you get an offer. Having good references could be the decisive factor between getting the offer and having it go blank on you.
It’s important that you know who to ask and how to ask for recommendation letters. Here are some simple steps to follow when you’re ready to apply for your next big job.
Who to Ask for References
Of course, there’s no way you’re going to have a sparkling clean recommendation letter if you don’t know who to ask. Or rather, if you ask the wrong person.
You need to know the right people and get in contact with them some time beforehand, so it doesn’t feel like you’re putting them in a tight corner. Plan ahead and compile a heavy set of references so you can get your recommendation letters sooner.
Select knowledgeable people
In spite of this, don’t be tempted to have too many people on your list. It’s helpful to have people who can vouch for you, but there’s little chance every one of those people will be suitable.
The people you select need to be knowledgeable about different aspects of each one of your abilities, depending on the kind of job you’re applying for. It’s not just a list of those close friends you know will have your back when you need them.
Select people who will endorse you
Another important aspect of picking your reference is knowing them well. They need to be responsive about the most fundamental aspects of your job, at least. For instance, they should know where you worked, what your primary job was, your title, why you left, your strengths and weaknesses and what makes you the perfect fit.
Your references should also have something positive to say about your background and how it’s relevant to your set of skills and your performance regarding it. Make sure the information they provide reflects what you’ve written in your own resume and what you talk about during the interview. Consistency is very crucial, and the lack of it can completely lay all your efforts to waste.
Your references don’t need to be employers
Past employers are a perfect pick for who to use as your references, but you’re not completely tied down to them.
You’re free to select anyone – customers, vendors, business associates and acquaintances, lecturers, academic advisors and even people you worked with. If you’ve volunteered in some position sometime in the past, you’re at an even stronger standing.
Get your recommendations in writing
The most formal way of communication with potential employers, and, anyone else, really, is by writing. Whenever you’re ready to leave a position at your old job, it’s always a good idea to ask for a recommendation letter from your manager. You would be at a great advantage if the two of you had a good working relationship.
Preferably, you should ask as soon as you can because as time passes and you both move on, trying to get in touch again can be awkward and keeping track of them might be difficult. Furthermore, they may not remember what position you held or how efficient a worker you were.
It’s always a good idea to be as friendly as possible with your superiors for this reason exactly. If they are your only reference and you didn’t get along, you’ll be in for a rough ride.
Having those letters at hand in advance will save you a lot of the hassle that comes with having to chase after your former co-workers or bosses. However, even the supervisors or superiors you hardly ever saw can still be used as references. Call them up and ask if you can include them and how to do it in your application letter.
How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation
Nobody likes to feel like they are being put in a spot. So, for instance, you shouldn’t ask outright: “Could you write a recommendation letter for me?” It feels confrontational, and unless you were extremely close to the person at the other end, it wouldn’t work.
Instead, ask politely. Make them feel they have a choice in the matter. For example: “Do you think you could write me a good reference?” or “Are you comfortable writing me a good recommendation letter?”
Because, ultimately, it’s their choice, and if they say “no,” you made sufficient effort, and there was nothing wrong at your end. Besides, there’s a fair chance you will get one or several “yes” replies, in which case, you’ll be sure to get a very positive recommendation letter.
Some tips about getting letters of recommendation
In addition, there is a not-so-insignificant chance the person you approach doesn’t know how to write a letter of recommendation. For that reason, have some samples of recommendation letters you can present them with at hand.
Some companies, instead of reference letters, prefer to have the contact of your current employer/supervisor. Be sure to have their phone numbers and email addresses at hand just in case.
Most employers have it in mind that you may have not shared details regarding you searching for a new job, so won’t contact your employer right away. As such, they will likely as for your permission before getting in touch with them. If you don’t get the job, you won’t have jeopardized you only means of livelihood.
Lastly, don’t forget to say thank you to the people who wrote you reference letters. After all, they did take sacrifice some precious time just to help you out.
People feel appreciated and will feel even better knowing they were able to help you. It also puts them in a position to better assist you in the future. It doesn’t have to be anything too big – an email saying thanks or a letter serving the purpose will do just fine.