by Torski Dobson-Arnold
As a career coach, I review hundreds of resumes per year from job seekers. In almost all cases, job seekers list a common one-liner at the end of the document that reads “Professional References Available Upon Request.” What value does that line add to your resume? What expectation does it give the reader? None. This one-liner adds absolutely no value to your prospects of getting an interview.
When you provide your references to an employer, are they prepared to help your professional marketing efforts? Are they aware of your job search goals and objectives? These are important questions, because professional references, just like those in your network, will either be an asset or a liability in selling your professional brand. It is your responsibility as a job seeker to help your references represent your best self. Here’s why:
1. References can mean the difference between getting the job offer. As much as a person has agreed to be your reference, he/she can only speak about what they know in the realm that you have a relationship with that person. If a reference served in the capacity of your supervisor for a mere six months of your ten year work history, he/she can only speak on that span unless you share your learning and growth in your career with them on an ongoing basis.
2. References want to help you get a new job. They wouldn’t have agreed otherwise. In some cases, references do not have enough information to share with the company about you. If a reference has not heard from you in the past two years, he/she will not be able to talk about recent accomplishments and accolades. Stay in touch, share your successes and ask for advice on challenges.
3. References can speak to your workplace success. Personal references do not carry the same weight as professional references for job seekers. Certainly your pastor, neighbor, and even your father-in-law may be able to share very endearing aspects about you, but they may not have a clue as to whether or not you are savvy in Microsoft Excel. Stick with past supervisors, manager, colleagues and clients. They are better equipped to speak to your workplace successes and don’t have the biases that plague personal references in a job search.
Do not list references on your resume. This is not where they serve you best. You will not want companies to have access to your references prematurely in the interview process. It is very important to value your references’ time and attention in acting as a reference on your behalf. Instead, you’ll want to develop a separate professional references sheet and have this available upon request during the interview process.
Like your professional network, it is your job to effectively manage your references so that the people you choose are ready, capable, and willing to speak on your behalf to hiring managers in order to “seal the deal” on a job. If mismanaged or taken for granted, professional references can cause more harm than good to your job search efforts.
Keep professional references up to date. Give them a call or send them an email. Maintain awareness on your job search efforts and most importantly, thank them for agreeing to speak on your behalf. They have agreed to be a spokesperson on your behalf; the least you can do Is make sure they have the most updated script.