A great set of references

Sandra J. Bishop, president of Executive Solutions, is an executive coach and career strategist.

Now you have gotten closer to the end game and received a job offer.  What next?  The next make-or-break step is to furnish your prospective employer with a great set of references.

For most attorneys, most of the time, references are not a problem.  It is great to be well thought of.  I bet you are — almost all of the time — and are by everyone!  But, when you are being “referenced,” you want to make absolutely sure that your colleagues are giving the right impression of you.

When you begin a job search under typical conditions, one of the first things to do is get your references in line.  On this sheet of paper, include the full name proper spelling of each name, the person’s title, complete contact information, your relationship to this person and the dates you have worked for or with this individual.  Your references can be past or present.  If you take some effort, you will quickly develop a list of pertinent professionals whose enthusiasm you have tested and re-stimulated either in person or by phone.

Remember to ask for a references and not a job.

If you screen the list of potentials, you will quickly find out who is in your corner, and who is indifferent.  It’s fair to say from the start you will know precisely who you want prospective employers to speak with.  Do not accompany your resume with a list of references.  It simply is not done that way.  When you are very close to getting a job offer, or have the offer in hand, you will be asked for your references.  You will generally be asked for three to five references, one is personal – the remaining of which are professional.

Remember, your references will appreciate you teeing them up with a specific description of the company and position you have been offered, what the responsibilities will be, what are your greatest strengths, why you are a good fit for the job and finally what weaknesses you may have.

Please, thoroughly prepare references using the above paragraphs as a guide for specific conversation points.  When it comes to weaknesses, a great response is always that you “work too hard,” you are a “perfectionist” in your work, or that you set “too high expectations” for yourself.

Remember, the people you have chosen as references really feel enthusiastic the first or second time you use them.  If they are called upon more and more, their enthusiasm wanes and they become almost apathetic.  They also start to wonder (shame on them) why you have not landed a job sooner.  A way around this dilemma is to have a reasonably lengthy list of references teed up to extol your praises!

Remember, your perspective employer wants to know how great you are today; not how fabulous you were yesterday!

Good luck!


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