One of the services I provide for my clients is checking references for candidates I represent. The hiring managers are looking for a list of at least 3-4 professional references – people who have worked closely with the candidate and know them well. The list must include at least one direct supervisor – someone who managed the candidate directly and did their performance reviews. You would optimally have more than one direct supervisor on your list, particularly if you’re in an active job search or unemployed.
In the interest of preserving confidentiality no hiring manager expects you to list references from your current employer. But they do expect the candidate to consider their viewpoint – “if you were me, trying to make an important hiring decision, who would you expect to see on a reference list?” Other good references can include dotted-line supervisors, your bosses boss, peers that worked with you directly for more than two years, and even customers who know you well. But there’s really no substitute for the words of a former supervisor.
Who you select as your references is just as important as what they say, particularly since the hiring managers expect the references to give a glowing, favorable report of your work. Personal and character references are not important in pre-employment reference checking. Often hiring managers will simply look at the list of references, consider their titles and how they have worked with the candidate, and make a general impression about candidate credibility based on who they listed. So work hard to keep in touch with former employers and have a quality list of references. Like the old adage says, “you’re going to have a reputation – so you might as well make sure that it’s a good one.”