Tuesday, January 15, 2013

"References available on request"

CreComm is back for the winter semester -- which, for those in second year, is also their final semester of the program. In the PR Major, we've been talking about how to "package" all your experience and training for prospective employers.

Over the years I've blogged on a number of different aspects of this topic, drawing on my years as a hiring manager. For easy reference, here are links to my earlier posts on writing a cover letter for a job in PR (here is the cover letter post part 2), and to how to answer the "salary expectations" question.

Today's topic: when to provide references

A student recently asked my advice on the best point in the job application process to provide references. Should you provide them with the cover letter and resume? Or should you wait until the interview?

It depends on the job ad.

1) If the job ad asks for them with the application, provide them with the application.

This is a no-brainer. If they ask for your references up-front, provide them up-front. Failure to do so is likely to annoy the hiring manager, and could also suggest that you're not very good at following simple instructions.

2) If the job ad doesn't mention them, promise to provide them on request.

I suggest this for a couple of reasons. First, waiting until you're asked for them lets you know you're likely being (seriously) considered for the position. This also allows you to only provide information about jobs you're after to the people providing your references if there's a good chance they'll have to take a call on your behalf. 

Make sure your reference-providers are well-prepared

Whenever possible, you want to ensure the person giving your reference knows what job you've applied for, and knows what makes you right for the job. That's what'll enable the person to speak to your experience in a persuasive way. If you can provide the job posting and some key points they might make in the reference call, it's helpful to them (and more likely to deliver for you). You're not telling the reference what to say - just providing some reminders to help them see why you feel you're right for the position.

If you automatically provide the reference names and contacts with every cover letter and resume, that's tougher to do. Either your reference gets inundated with information on all the jobs you apply for, or doesn't get any information at all. Neither is optimal for you.

A final note about references

Be thinking about them long before you ever go to apply for a job. When hiring managers call for a reference check, they ask all kinds of questions -- including, often, "what is this candidate's greatest weakness?" and "would you hire this person?".

The professional providing your reference has to answer honestly -- so make sure they consistently see your best. That's what'll allow them to tell your future boss they did.


  1. Applicants need to be aware of some factors outside their control -- for example, the complexity of the reference process.

    Recently I provided a reference for a former student to a large organization that subcontracts its reference-checking to an online service.

    No problem -- except this procedure demanded extensive quantitative and qualitative answers to many questions that were not relevant in this case. One size doesn't fit all.

    It took me more than half an hour to do this favour.

    The same day I tried for the third time in a week to submit an online reference for another person to a Canadian university. The site was unavailable, it informed me repeatedly.

    Did I accept the invitation to discuss this problem with the university's IT department?


  2. Which Car you want..? Here is a best list of Cars and Vehicles, Hot Vehicles, Strange Cars, Super Cars Model, Funny Cars, Car Latest Models, Cars with Girls, Cars like helicopter and Most Speed and Expensive Cars