When it comes to job hunting, one of your most valuable assets is your stock of positive, professional references. Whether by phone or letter, a great reference can set you apart from the rest of the candidate pool and skyrocket you straight to the top of the pack. It is for this reason that it is absolutely essential that you carefully manage your recommendations so that you can leverage them appropriately.
Though perhaps not the most comfortable element in the job hunt, you can learn how to easily and tactfully go about requesting letters of reference. Here’s how you do it:
- Only ask for recommendations from those who you know have good things to say about you and your work.
- Always give your reference writers plenty of time to work on your recommendation. It is not wise to gather references at the last minute, nor ask someone to rush a letter for you.
- When you approach someone to write a letter for you, provide them with all of the materials to do so, but make sure that the two are done so as a separate process. Ask first and provide second. This way you have an ongoing line of communication and a polite reminder.
- Provide references with a copy of the position description as well as a copy of your current resume.
- Ask references to address specific skills and abilities in their letter. You may want to consider dividing responsibilities among each of your references as a smart plan of action. Have one address your personality, another your computer skill, another your experience, etc.
Regardless of the outcome (i.e. whether or not you got the position), always let your references know what happens and extend your gratitude for their efforts. Always, always say thank you and offer to return the favor.