A less-than-glowing reference can set you apart from other job candidates — in the wrong way.
Following are some suggestions for assembling a reference list that works for, not against, you:
Don't ambush your contacts. Make sure the people you ask potential employers to reach out to are aware that you've listed them as references and are comfortable speaking on your behalf.
Before you submit a reference list to a prospective employer, provide each contact with an updated copy of your resume. Also describe the company and position you've applied for, as well as the name of the person who will likely be calling.
Contacting references beforehand will also allow you to make sure each individual is enthusiastic about your request.
Choose wisely. Consider which of your references can best discuss the traits and qualities you possess that directly relate to the job. If you're applying for a management position, for example, it's helpful to provide contact information for a previous supervisor and someone you managed.
Remember, it's a small world. Some employers may go the extra mile to learn more about you, and social media sites can make such detective work easier than in the past. You should not only avoid burning bridges with former colleagues but also be selective about who's in your online network since a hiring manager could contact these individuals.
Go the extra mile. Make it easy for an employer to speak to your references by providing clear contact information for each individual. Include the person's name, phone number and email address.
Tell the truth. Hiring managers are bound to find out if you stretched the truth during the hiring process, so resist any temptation to be less than honest about your prior experience — and make sure your references are forthright, too.
Say thanks. Even if a reference doesn't end up speaking to a hiring manager on your behalf, thank that person and keep him or her updated on the status of your search. If you are hired, be sure to send a thank-you note or even a small gift to your references.