The key, then, is to get a reference that shows the employer that you are a special candidate. While there is no way to control what someone says about you, there are ways to set yourself up for the best possible endorsement. Here are five tips for doing so:
- Don't wait until the last-minute. You should always give your reference enough time so they don't have to scramble to put something together.
- Choose your references based on their ability to provide the best impressions about you, not on their title. Unless you worked closely with the president of your last job, it is more likely that someone in your department will have clearer memories of you than a high-level executive.
- Professors or other professional contacts are acceptable references, especially if you are still in the early stages of your career.
- Always ask before including someone as a reference. Even if the contact is not annoyed by the lack of notification, it it likely he will not be able to deliver the ringing endorsement for which you are looking.
- Stay in touch even if you didn't get the job. That way you will still be fresh in their mind the next time you need an endorsement.
- Include background information when listing your references. A sentence or two about your work history with each reference can help the hiring manager ask the most pertinent questions.