Reference checks often feel like an add-on to the recruiting process. After all, at that point, you’ve already survived a scrupulous resume review and an intensive interview.

However, having a robust set of references can often make a huge difference. One study found that nearly nine in 10 employers (87%) conduct reference checks.

Many of these are shallow resume checks, making sure you haven’t embellished your work history. That said, there is the chance for something more. A dynamic recommendation from one of your references can greatly improve your chances. In a tight contest with another highly qualified candidate, any edge can tip things in your favor.

Given this potential, it’s important to assemble an excellent group of references. Beyond that, having the right technique for connecting with them will greatly improve your chances of receiving a glowing endorsement.

Here’s the best way to get the references you need to make the most of your job search:

How to Best Find References When Searching for Your Next Opportunity

Take a Thoughtful Approach to the Reference Process

In constructing your list of references, you want a core group of three to five people who can seal the deal if you get close to receiving a job offer. Choosing the right collection can put you over the top for an opportunity you’re pursuing.

Think of picking references like building a strong team. As such, you want a range of contributions. Different selections should bring something unique to the process.

Select References Carefully

Choose references that can highlight various parts of your skill set. Ideally, you’ll want people who have worked directly with you. Here are a few categories to consider:

  • Coworkers
  • Supervisors
  • Direct Reports
  • Business Partners

Beyond looking at types of references, you also want to enlist the top individuals you can. As you look at the potential choices, ask yourself questions like these:

  • Did they work closely with you?
  • Are they a strong speaker/writer, who can effectively describe your value?
  • Do they have nice things to say about you?
  • What part of your career/skill set can they highlight?

Contact Them Ahead of Time

Don’t let your reference be surprised. Taken off-guard by a potential employer, they might be annoyed by the intrusion. At the same time, they might not have done the preparation necessary to give you a strong recommendation.

Instead, reach out to any prospective references well ahead of time. As you start your job search, contact your top choices and discuss the situation with them.

Be Polite

Think about how you want to reach out to potential references. Don’t just type a hasty email on your iPhone while you wait in line at Starbucks. Instead, craft a message that politely asks for their help. At the same time, spotlight your situation and describe what you are trying to accomplish.

Using this approach will increase your chances of getting the help you need. Remember, you are asking for a favor — you should treat it like such. In addition, you’ll end up with a better reference, as you can shape their focus when the time comes for them to talk to potential employers.

Re-introduce Yourself As Needed

Not every reference will remember you well. For example, a former supervisor might have a large number of direct reports during their career. As you reach out to people you don’t know well, give a brief refresher of who you are and when you worked with the person.

Even for individuals who you feel close to, make sure to send them your resume and any other details about your career that can help them make a strong recommendation. Your closest friends and colleagues might not know the full range of your career. Any information you can provide will make them a better reference.

Build Relationships with Follow Ups

You’ll need your references throughout the job-search process. This can take months. Meanwhile, a strong group can become a fallback throughout your career. As such, landing a reference means nurturing a long-term relationship.

As such, you need to take a long-term approach and commit to regular follow-ups. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Understand If They Turn You Down: Some people don’t want to participate in the process. Respect this and don’t get pushy.
  • Thank Them for Their Help: Recognize the effort your reference is putting into the role. Show your appreciation each time they help.
  • Keep Them Updated: Let your references know how the job search is going. This will keep them engaged. At the same time, it will give them additional information about the market and your goals.

Looking to Further Strengthen Your Professional Support System?

A great set of references can help you land the perfect job. You’ll get similar support from a top recruiter, like Hiregy.

Contact Hiregy today to take your career to the next level.