Avoid These 8 Fatal Mistakes with References

Avoid These 8 Fatal Mistakes with References

Your job search is like a modern marketing campaign. Since you are the product, your advertising should include: a resume, cover letter, business card and of course, online presence.


Employers will definitely take your advertising into account. But they know that this is you boasting about yourself. To balance this, they will also want to hear what other people have to say about you. That’s why your references are so crucial.


Choosing and preparing your references can be trickier than you think. It’s easy to make mistakes that could ruin your chances for the job. Avoid these eight common errors and give your marketing muscle a boost.


Mistake 1) Providing Inadequate References

Some job seekers believe they have lots of people to contact as references. That won’t matter if the references aren’t up to snuff. You’ll need people who know you from your recent job(s), and maybe a personal reference as well. The more relevant and credible the people you select as references are, and the more they know about how you work, the better.

What about references for students and grads who lack work experience? They may need to ask teachers or professors, parents, coaches or contacts from their volunteer work.


Mistake 2) Not “Googling” Your References Beforehand

At a minimum, use a search engine to quickly check each person who agrees to serve as your reference. An employer might do the same. It’s best you see ahead of time what they might find. The same goes for each reference’s social media presence. You’re responsible for the first impressions an employer will form.


Mistake 3) Giving Out Your List too Early

Keeping control of your references is important. Don’t release your reference list until you’re asked to. Submitting it too soon lets the employer pick and choose who they’ll contact. The preferred approach is for you to suggest one or two references most relevant for the job you’ve applied to. If the employer asks for more names, or makes a specific request – such as wanting to speak to your most recent boss – you can respond accordingly. Otherwise it could be that a letter of reference will suffice.


Mistake 4) Not Bothering to Prepare Your References Adequately

Imagine if an employer calls your reference and the reference has no clue why they’re being contacted. You’d end up looking pretty disorganized. Your reference would be embarrassed and maybe angry with you. Avoid this common mistake. There are several steps in preparing each reference:

  • Inform them in advance of the kind of job you’re currently seeking
  • Find out what they may say about you, and make some helpful, specific suggestions about skills, experience and personality traits you’d like highlighted
  • Send them a copy of your resume, the job description, or anything else they may need to talk about you confidently and accurately


Mistake 5) Making It Hard to Contact Them

Ensure that when it’s time to contact your references, you make it simple for the employer to do so. The least you should do is give an approved, current phone number and email address for each person. This may take a bit of research on your part if the reference is from years ago and no longer works at the same place. Harder still to find are those who’ve moved away. Do not leave it up to the employer to locate this information themselves. They may decide the effort’s not worth it, or that you’re either lazy or trying to hide something.


Mistake 6) Failing to Re-Alert References in a Timely Way

Possibly you’ll complete steps 4 and 5 above early in your job search campaign. If enough time passes since then, go back and update your references on your status. Are you close to being asked for your list? If so, alert the people who’ll be contacted. See if they have any additional questions or comments. They’re probably busy people so don’t take for granted they’ll remember.


Mistake 7) Overusing Your Endorsers

Reference burnout: it’s when one or more of your references has been contacted by an employer too often. It can happen when you’re going on interviews with numerous employers. The longer your job search goes, the more likely you’ll run into this problem. To prevent this you should have a couple of backup references. Consider alternating the references you use periodically. Remember too that as a reference speaks up for you more than a couple of times, they may start wondering why you haven’t found a suitable job yet.


Mistake 8) Neglecting to Properly Say Thank You

Your references are sticking their necks out for you. What they say on your behalf could win or lose you the job. So be appreciative of their efforts. Send them a note of thanks from time to time. And if you get that new job, make sure the reference(s) who made the biggest difference know it. Offer to return the favour one day. You never know when the roles will be reversed.