“Like time, you cannot readily make more references……Guard Them Zealously!”

References are probably the most over abused and misunderstood part of the interviewing process. The references that you give out are like printing your own currency. The more you use them the less they buy! Be careful how, when, and where you “use” them. Jealously guard and hoard them.

Always put yourself in your reference contact’s position. How often would you enjoy being called? Even if the “guy or gal” were a great friend, as well as a former colleague, it would not be long before you (the reference) would get short tempered with an interviewer and possibly give a less than glowing reference report. Here are 8 points to consider when the reference option arises:

1. Only supply references, if an offer is imminent or actually dependent upon them.

2. Notify your references that you would like to “use” them. Ask their permission. Check what they will say. Find out when they would be available for a call.

3. Always rehearse your references on what you would like them to “say” or write about you. Prepare a pre-scripted reference, and offer to email it to them. Email it anyway, even if they say it is not necessary, along with your narrative. “Just because they are so busy.”

4. Be sure to ask for them to contact you after they have spoken to the interviewer, if it is not too much trouble. Ask them to make notes as to what the interviewer asked as it may/will help you secure the position in your follow-up enotes and conversations with the new employer. Remember to thank them ahead of time.

5. Use your references sparingly. Always rotate your references. “Keep track” of how many times you have asked your references for their help.

6. Develop a prepared list of references, include the following:


a. prior immediate manager/supervisor

b. prior peer

c. prior subordinate (if none available, another prior peer)

d. prior client

e. prior manager’s superior or another supervisor

(Be sure to always send a thank you note to each reference and keep them apprised of your progress. Be sure to Stay in touch after you start the new job.

7. Other Points to Remember:


– Never put references on your resume, cover letter, or initial correspondence or in Creative Presentation Document.

– Always ask who is going to call, when and why!

8. Confirm with the hiring authority that if the references are good; and you know they will be; that you will be receiving a written offer immediately after the reference check. Check on the start date.

Immediately below is a distillation of a presentation that I wrote years ago as part of a sales manual. As a candidate, you must always focus on the simple truth that every contact with a Hiring Authority, was and forever will be the one of the most complicated sales call you will ever attempt.

I have purposely left the text as it was when it was originally written over 26 years ago. (Please substitute candidate where you see product, and HA/HR where you see client.)



This elusive hidden agenda item has its basic five unusually contradictory sets of ingredients. Each of the five is so uniquely different from the other that to define references with a single definition seems to be illogical. Furthermore, each by itself is a very logical part of the thought process of most potential clients and business owners. Always ask purpose of the reference.

The first part of the reference process is verification. The client is merely trying to verify that we “exist,” that we do good work and that we indeed, can help or at least understand their business, and that through this involvement they can benefit from our interaction with them. It is a way of their saying that they understand what we are saying and are interested in what we are saying, but they want to prove to themselves that we are decent guys and not just another set of scoundrels.

The second part of the reference cycle is the reinforcement stage. The client is contemplating our involvement in their business, personal life, etc, and they need someone outside to reinforce that they have made the proper decision. The reference is indeed a consultant. The client, by seeking a reference, is saying that he buys the concept of a consultant. They are willing to talk to an absolute stranger about an absolute stranger. It is their way of saying, “I buy you.”

The third part of the reference cycle is the elimination cycle. The client is looking for a way to reference you “out.” Their objective for seeking references is so that something is said to them by one of our clients, regardless of how well they evaluate us as a way for the client being able to say to us “I’m not interested in getting involved with you guys.”

The fourth part is after the client has made the decision and is attempting to validate or justify their decision. It is merely a way of saying to themselves; “Hey you made the right decision.” They don’t require references as a pending reference sale; they just want to know someone else they can talk to, to feel good that they made the right decision. It’s the time when a client will sign an authorization form with us without requiring the reference, but at the very end they will ask us for a reference, just in case, just to make sure.

The fifth part of the reference cycle is manipulation. The client is attempting to manipulate the candidate, or embarrass them, or force them to jump through hoops in order to justify his existence. There are times when the client requests the references specifically to see what the sales rep does with that request. Does he hem and haw; does he come to the point, does he provide the references, what is the company’s policy with regard to references?

One of the best ways to eliminate the necessity for references is to insist that the client check them. It will, especially, eliminate the manipulator, who by his devious nature hasn’t bought what you have attempted to explain, because you haven’t found his real “need.” You have not found the risk factor that they wish rewarded. Find the need, and you have the sale/offer.

The wonderful thing about references is that they tell you in three cases out of five that the client does have interest. You, as the professional, have to distinguish what those needs are. The interrogatory process must also be used in determining why a client is seeking references.

Remember; It is your job, as a professional, to find the reason for the request. In some cases they are obvious. The valuator just wants someone to make him feel good. The eliminator has agreed with everything you have said and is using this as a way to get you out. The re-enforcer just wants to check that we are still in business. Each of the reference parts have a unique set of circumstances and requirements, which as a professional sales representative, you must see, hear, feel and analyze.

Employment references are often used similarly. Just as in an objection you cannot handle, so too with a reference request, you should not try. Let the client fully develop his need for the references. By seeking his/her advice in terms of the kind of reference s/he wants, you will have a good indicator in terms of the kind of questions and the kind of references the client is seeking.

If you have found these concepts useful and want more in depth Information: Please check out our book, CD’s and website at www.get-THAT-NEXT-job.com. Our website is constantly being updated. Please check the updates via the site’s search engine.

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