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Are References That Important?

references, Job Hunting, Job Search...

The difference between you landing that job offer or not.


References are an underrated primary key to the interview process. You may be thinking, do people even ask for references anymore? Do they call them? 

With a majority of people having social media and LinkedIn profiles, one may think that references are not necessary. You can find someone, “stalk” them and know who they are online. Linkedin itself is the most common place to find candidates to view their work history, see if they have endorsements and even recommendations. So are references STILL relevant?

In this blog, I am going to share with you why references are so valuable. It could be the difference between you getting that offer or not. 

1. A reference shares the truth about you. –they touch on those intangible qualities you can’t find on a resume

Think, when entering the interview process, you have already prepared your resume, and it is sharp! You’ve taken all of your education and experience, highlighted your skill sets and strengths, and simplified it onto one piece of paper. No one ever has been hired off just their resume. If you catch their eye, you receive an invite to the interview. 

You’ve taken the interview, and the employer loves you, but just before they can send you an offer. They want feedback from people who know you, and who have worked with you!

This is where the reference comes in handy. Your references can share with your future employer all of the intangible qualities you possess.
The late hours in the office to get a project done, the way you went out of your way to help a coworker, or maybe how you solved a significant problem in one of the systems. The reference followup is an opportunity to share all of the positive qualities and value you brought to the team. 

2. References provide credibility to what’s written on a resume – helps eliminate “fake candidates.”

Okay, so here’s the cold truth, anyone can write anything on a piece of paper and act as if it’s true. I wish that weren’t the case, but there are many examples of this. One of the most common places this happens is with people who hold H1B Visas. People will list fake credentials to show they have a more prestigious education than they have. It may seem harmless to “exaggerate” one’s qualifications, but there has to be a way to validate this information, which is where references come into play. 

The best way for a company to ensure they are hiring and investing in the right person is to have a reference for someone who can attest that this information is correct. Now that you have a better understanding of the importance of referrals. How many references should you have? Moreover, who should these be?

From my experience, 3 is the perfect amount, here’s why. Anything less than three could bring up the question, “Why does this person not have more people that would give them praise?”

However, if someone has more than 3, it raises the question as to why this person has so many references? Did they jump from job to job? Are they listing their friends as a reference? 

Which leads me to the next question, which is, who should these references be? 

A reference should be of someone who has managed you directly in the past or have been in a leadership role. A personal friend, or a coworker, is not considered a useful reference. Anyone can get a coworker to say great things about them. It defeats the purpose of the reference. 

Once you have selected some excellent references, you need to do your due diligence in making sure your people are ready when they get that call. Some keys things they should be up to date on are your start and end dates, reasons why you left, strength, and weaknesses. They should be able to talk about the projects you worked on, and how willing they would be to rehire you. 

In conclusion, not every position or educational system will require references, but it always in your favor to be able to provide excellent references. In many scenarios, I have seen companies torn between two candidates, and typically the one with better references will get the position. Once again, the reason is they will highlight your work in a way that a resume won’t, they will validate your professional practice, and can help influence a hiring manager to choose you over another candidate based on their feedback and recommendation. 


Happy Job Hunting,

Katie Daron