Excerpted from The Next Web Blog by Pippa Hardy

References: Didn’t they go out with the ark? These days we are far more inclined to think that all the power in job hunting lies in employee referral programs or social media recommendations, and as a result, lots of job seekers forget about the power of a good reference.

According to a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey, 92% of employers conduct background checks, usually during pre-employment screening (87%). Some even repeat checks on an annual basis (15%) or when an employee is promoted (10%).

Top tech companies such as Google and Microsoft rely heavily on references to sort through potential candidates, and make sure they find the right person for the role.

So, if you’re about to begin your job search, it’s time to get your ducks in a row. Here’s everything you need to know to make sure your references help you stand out from the crowd (for all the right reasons).

What is a reference?
In a nutshell, a reference is a testimonial, aka someone trustworthy a potential employer can contact to find out more about your experience, work ethic or your personality. It’s basically a way for them to fact-check the wonderful things you’re saying about yourself.

When do you need a reference?
Often, you won’t need to list your references or attach reference letters to your applications. But you should always have your references on hand in case a potential employer asks for them.

Employers typically contact references toward the end of the hiring process. They use these references to help them decide between the last few candidates and ensure they make the correct choice. References can be especially helpful when you’re switching careers and don’t have as much concrete experience on your application.

Who should I ask to be a reference?
There are a couple of types of references, but for work purposes, keep it work-related. Avoid friends, family, neighbors your hairdresser – you get the picture. Your references should only include people you’ve worked with in a professional capacity. Ideally, it should be a past manager or supervisor who can answer questions about your work style and skills.

Do I need to ask for permission?
Yes! Always ask your references in advance if they’re happy for you to give out their phone number or email address. Nobody wants to get an out-of-the-blue phone call about an old colleague they haven’t seen in years. Be considerate and always thank them.

I didn’t get on with my previous boss
If you and your previous manager didn’t see eye-to-eye, don’t list them as a reference. It’s best to forget about them as they aren’t likely to say great things.

I haven’t told my employer I’m job-hunting
Not a good idea. Just imagine what would happen if an HR manager rang your current manager looking for a reference. It isn’t likely to result in a great testimonial.

How often should I update my references?
Like your resume, your list should be constantly evolving. Every time you change roles, you should update the list. You can also tweak so they’re more suitable for certain roles.

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