Leverage Your References to Increase Your Chances of Getting an Offer

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You spend time reaching out to potential references and creating a reference list, but often those references are not contacted during the job search/interview process.  Most job seekers/candidates view “providing references” as a company requirement, but you should also be viewing this piece as a crucial and impactful piece of your “candidate marketing” strategy to differentiate yourself and gain an advantage over other applicants. 


Let us highlight some key suggestions when collecting, and then sharing, references. 

Capture real-time!

In earlier tips, we highlighted the importance of asking for references real-time.  Another key best practice is to ask for a LinkedIn recommendation after you ask if they would be willing to be a reference!  Ask for a reference and/or LinkedIn recommendation at these points throughout your career:

  1. After you deliver on a major project/application.
  2. As you are leaving an organization.
  3. As you are being considered for an internal transfer or promotion.   

There are multiple benefits to asking for LinkedIn recommendations real-time:

  1. Candidate Marketing Strategy - You can download all of your LinkedIn recommendations and provide them during the interview/consideration process as another way to positively distinguish yourself from other candidates. 
  2. Optimizes LinkedIn profile - There is an algorithm set up that if you have at least three recommendations on your profile, it optimizes your profile, thus ranking it higher.  Therefore, if a Recruiter/Talent Acquisition Specialist is searching for someone like you via LinkedIn, your profile will come up higher in the search results than others with the same skill set.
  3. More Quality Information - If you wait a period of time, say for example two years, to then go back and ask your last Manager, Lead, mentor, co-worker, client, etc. for a recommendation, the reference may write a less compelling recommendation since working with you is not fresh in their mind and they may have forgotten some of your core contributions.  This exact situation has happened to both of us recently.  We were either asked to provide a recommendation and/or act as a reference for an employee we managed several years ago.  We both really had to think to remember their exact contributions, responsibilities, and the timeframe of when we managed them and dates of employment (although, to be fair, we both do not have the best memories!).  

Provide recommendations, even if not solicited.

Per #1 above, view “sharing of recommendations” as a candidate marketing and branding strategy!  If you have exceptional LinkedIn recommendations, especially ones that communicate traits, skills or successes that are relevant for the job you are interviewing for, provide them!  You can share recommendations in a few ways:

  1. Send to the Recruiter/Talent Acquisition Specialist you are partnering with at some point during the process, whether it be with your application, after your first conversation, once you get lined up for an interview, or after an interview.
  2. Print and bring with your resume to an interview, and provide to the Manager or Recruiter/Talent Acquisition Specialist at the end of the interview. 
  3. Copy and paste 1-2 strong recommendations that are relevant for the job you are applying for in your application. 
  4. Post-interview, copy and paste in the body of your thank you letter email or attach all your LinkedIn recommendations as a PDF to the email.  

Always let your references know when you will be providing them! 

About a month ago, I received a call to be a reference for someone I had trained and mentored circa 2007-2009.  I certainly did not mind being a reference for him, but I was caught off guard since I did not realize he was back in the job market and would still be providing me as a reference.  I struggled to even remember exactly when we had worked together, which I imagine could not have looked good.  Bottom line, I would have appreciated a “heads up!” 

Educate your references on anything you would love for them to speak to during a reference check and/or LinkedIn recommendation. 

I recently did a Career Consultation with one of our Contractors who is currently a Data Analyst but is looking to transition into a Business Analyst role.  One of his questions was around “how can I get the Managers to see that while I’ve never had a pure BA role, I know I could do the job?”  I encouraged him to think through the key traits that make a strong BA, such as client interfacing, customer service, documentation, thorough and effective line of questioning, attention to detail, leading/facilitating meetings, problem-solving, etc. and then after, to identify references he could provide that would directly speak to those qualities.    

Provide references that are relevant for the roles you are pursuing. 

Giving a recommendation or reference for a Manager or co-worker of your first job as a junior Analyst when you are now a Technical Lead is not only outdated and irrelevant, it could also raise a red flag that you do not have more current individuals to speak positively on your behalf. 

Thank your references! 

Every time you list them and they are contacted, show appreciation to them for taking the time to speak on your behalf.  Even if it is a simple text or email, a thank you always goes a long way. 

Next Steps

Going forward:

  1. Ask for references real-time, including LinkedIn recommendations.  Give your references guidance on the experience or contributions you provided while working with/for them you would love them to address in the recommendation.
  2. Make it a goal to have at least three LinkedIn recommendations on your profile to optimize it.  
  3. During the job search process, provide your LinkedIn recommendations either with your application, after you have a conversation with a Recruiter or someone at the organization, print or bring during an interview, or provide in a follow up ‘Post Interview Thank You Letter.’  
  4. Give your references a heads up whenever you provide them.
  5. Say a simple thank you to your references each time!

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About the author
MSSQLTips author Erica Woods Erica Woods has nearly a decade in the IT staffing world, an MBA, and is a member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches.

This author pledges the content of this article is based on professional experience and not AI generated.

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