Gone are the days when job seekers could walk into a business establishment and hand over a resume. Technology and security have changed that game, and both have bearing on the increasingly impersonal job hunt process. Electronic resumes traverse the country in a matter of seconds. Computers do key word searches for hiring managers and recruiters. The distance between a company’s front door and the HR folks may as well be measured in miles than square feet. So even with a security clearance and top notch skills, what can make the difference when you’re being evaluated on paper instead of in person?
“References increasingly matter,” said Fran Cohen, business owner, Fran Cohen Consulting. “That’s where the information is that’s not on your resume. References give employers a kind of first-hand account of what your titles really mean and what you’re known for. The successes you put on your resume and your clearance and credentials definitely set you apart against the competition. But employers looking for the real story know they can get the best people by getting references who give them the best recommendations.”
While many job seekers still provide the standard, “references available upon request” at the bottom of a resume, it may be more advantageous to list them and their contact information at the bottom of a cover letter.
“That conveys self-assurance to employers,” said Cohen. “It says you’re confident that others will speak well of you. It also just makes it easier for them to get in touch with your references. They don’t have to work hard to get the information and they can go ahead and have those conversations in order to make a more informed decision.”
So who to list? Hiring managers generally see the testimony of supervisors and former bosses as carrying more weight than colleagues and personal friends. As valuable as personal information may be, those for whom a job candidate has worked can testify to the individual’s work ethic, abilities, performance and impact on a business.
“The culture of the job hunt today is robotic,” said Cohen. “References are increasingly the way employers get around the efficiency of the process and more toward the credibility of those they’re interested in hiring. As a rule, if they perform well at work and get along with co-workers and bosses, that says a lot about their personal character.”
Three words of caution: Let them know. Even if you’re confident a former commander or supervisor will provide positive feedback, it’s still a good idea to inform them in advance. First, you’ll ensure the contact information you provide is still valid. Second, you avoid the chance your references will be caught off guard. Most importantly, you provide your references with a little lead time in which to think about the best ways to recommend you and specific instances in which you excelled.