Get great references!


Job searching is primarily done online. Because of this, you rely heavily on your resume to do the talking. However, these days, we’re hearing more and more about the overarching importance of references. In fact, according to a SHRM survey, 8 out of 10 HR executives consistently contact references for professional (89%), executive (85%), administrative (84%), and technical (81%) positions.

It makes sense right? I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “looks good on paper” and employers have heard it too. That’s why they need to make sure you’re not just good on paper, but in real life too.

As it turns out, finding great employees and assembling great teams is much less about professional titles and more about kindness, care and passion.

After 2 years of research for Project Aristotle at Google, a project set forth to find the perfect mix of individuals to make up a team, they didn’t receive the data they were hoping to find.

“We were pretty confident that we’d find the perfect mix of individual traits and skills necessary for a stellar team,” said Rozovsky, People Operations Analyst at Google. “Take one Rhodes Scholar, two extroverts, one engineer who rocks at AngularJS, and a PhD. Voila. Dream team assembled, right?”

Not right.

‘‘We looked at 180 teams from all over the company,’’ said Dubey, a manager in Google’s People Analytics division. ‘‘We had lots of data, but there was nothing showing that a mix of specific personality types or skills or backgrounds made any difference. The ‘who’ part of the equation didn’t seem to matter.’’

Interesting. So, what did matter?

As it turned out, what really seemed to matter was that all the members in the group really cared about the mission of the project, each other and were all given a good say.

What does it all mean? It means that we’re human beings. We have to get along and care about one another to collaborate effectively and efficiently.

What does this have to do with references? This has everything to do with references. Your references can speak to what effect you work with others in a way that your resume cannot. That’s what you want!

What can you do? We’re here to help.

  1. Plan your references from day one. As we know, many people aren’t sticking around at companies for long anymore. There are a lot of options and a lot of project based work that can further your career. It’s okay to move around, but make sure that when you leave, it’s on good terms. We understand you can’t see the future, but it’s important to keep in mind that this is your professional career and everyone is connected. Go above and beyond so that your future references will fly you to the moon.
  1. Have a conversation. According to a CareerBuilder survery, “Three in five employers (62%) said that when they contacted a reference listed on an application, the reference didn’t have good things to say about the candidate.” Even worse, “69% of employers said they have changed their minds about a candidate after speaking with a reference, with 47% reporting they had a less favorable opinion and only 23% percent reporting that they had a more favorable opinion.” The best way to make sure you don’t become a statistic is to make sure that you’re going to get a good reference from your past employer before you give their number to your future employer. Call them on the phone and tell them you’d really appreciate the reference and see what they say. If they seem reluctant, don’t use them as a reference.
  1. Don’t exhaust your resources. You know that manager you worked for 10 years ago who you got along famously with and always put as a reference? Yeah, he’s probably a bit tired of being your reference by now. At least, it’s a good idea to make sure he’s not. Either way, it’s a good idea to not use the same references all the time. Have a handful that you can use.
  1. References before resumes. This might be a bit difficult, but if you’ve got a great reference who you think may be able to get your foot in the door with a great employer, do it before you send your resume over. For example, you’re straight out of college and you’ve got a professor who knows your ins-and-outs. Ask this professor if they can help you out by getting your name in the resume pool somewhere. Even if the reference doesn’t specifically know anyone, just having them shoot an email out may get the hiring managers attention.

What about LinkedIn recommendations?

LinkedIn recommendations are great, but they aren’t a substitute for a real conversation references. They can certainly be impressive if you have many, but hiring managers know that recommendations can be given at any time during your employment – and not all situations end well. So, they’ll still want to have a conversation with your references to make sure you’re going to be a good fit.

Have any tips for how to get great references? Let us know in the comments below.

As always, if you need anything, just let us know. We’re here to help you with your hiring and job search needs. Email us at

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