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Building a positive reputation: How to manage references ahead of time to land your dream job



Assuming you still have a good professional relationship, the best people to list as references are your immediate supervisors from previous jobs. It may not be possible in all cases, but if you have a particular understanding boss at your current job, you may be able to ask for a reference as you search for your next opportunity.


As a founder of multiple start-ups, while hiring, I use references to learn more about a candidate. The results still surprise me; I often find that applicants don’t ask their references to provide a recommendation. As you can imagine, this is quite disastrous. No one likes to be surprised. It’s even worse for a candidate because this is pretty telling of their character. Am I going to get a hire that may be great at engineering but not so much on communication? There’s too much at stake when applicants are near the finish line of landing a job. It’s a shame to lose out on opportunities because you didn’t prepare or even vet references ahead of time.


Here are some tactics that I’ve learned when it comes to recruiting and references:


Ask a mentor or a direct supervisor: keyword here is Ask. Give them a call, write them an email (with no grammatical or spelling errors). Always ask. The key here is, ask for permission before giving out anyone’s phone number. One thing you never want to do is list someone's contact information without telling them. There are multiple problems with doing this, especially if you include it on a publicly uploaded resume.


Give plenty of notice: In some cases, when you leave a job or internship, your supervisor will offer to provide a reference for you. However, it's still polite to give that person a heads-up that a potential employer may contact them about your application.


Give your reference the appropriate background information: When interviewing for a job, you've probably done extensive research on the position, so you can discuss your most relevant experience and show that you're a good fit. Your source should know what your potential job entails so they can give you the best, most helpful reference possible.

Vet your references ahead of time: In your discussion with your reference, it never hurts to ask if there was anything that you should improve on for your next role. Why? Because they will probably get asked that, and they can easily give an answer that may not reflect so positively on your character. Use this time to ensure that this reference will give you a positive recommendation.


I hope this was helpful! Please let me know how you go about managing your professional reputation in the comments.

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