At some point in your career — when you being considered as a candidate for a new opportunity — you will be asked to produce three to five business references. This is only a challenge if you haven’t kept in touch with former bosses, colleagues or subordinates, and then all of a sudden need to contact them and them to be an important part of your potential career move. References need to be handled with care, not ignored or overused. Here are some valuable tips for selecting, managing and using your references well.
1. Who to choose?
Choose business references who will be able to speak to your accomplishments and contributions. They should know your leadership style and traits. They can address strengths and, delicately, potential areas in need of improvement. They can describe your communication style and other specific attributes and skills. Make sure to contact them prior to submitting their names to employers or recruiters. Ideally you have kept in touch with them routinely. In most cases, previous bosses, colleagues and subordinates should be chosen. Don’t include vendor contacts or consultants you have worked with. If possible, try not to use references from long ago (greater than 10 years) and far away. References need to speak to your most recent accomplishments.
2. Contact information
Your business reference contact information should include: name, title, current organization, city, state, work phone number and/or cell phone, email and relationship to you. The information needs to be up-to-date and presented clearly.
3. Handling with care
Treat your references like gold. They cannot be put on your resume. They cannot be sent out until requested. If you feel at all uncertain about possible references and their opinions about you as an IT leader, do not include them. Try not to overuse them, and ask hiring managers or recruiters to hold off on any until you are a finalist or have an offer in hand. Be sure to thank them and maybe take them to lunch.
Good luck with this important step in your career management. Securing a new position will depend on it.