It should go without saying that having good references prepared to give to a perspective employer are an important part of the job search process. The employer who is evaluating you has only met you on a few occasions and seems that you have the skills required but your references are people who have worked with you regularly and who know your work first hand.
Ideally, your references should be former managers; peers are definitely second choices, particularly for non-manager level job hunters.
So what’s the biggest mistake that job hunters make with their references?
They don’t have the references checked to hear what is said about them!
(The second biggest mistake is presenting inaccurate contact information to the employer and then having to correct it.)
Recently, someone I was representing for a senior position with a major firm took “the lazy man’s approach” of turning over unchecked references to a prospective employer.
They were given at the time of the first meeting on the employment application.
Three interviews later, the employer called them and heard one of them offer what can only be described as a “candid assessment” of the individual and their (lack of) success.
It was impossible to fix.
For less experienced people, the reference may not be skillful at describing their successes, contributions and experience, presenting information in a “lukewarm” manner that is interpreted as ambivalence or neutrality, rather than the lack of experience the reference provider may have.
Make sure your references will speak in glowing terms about:
Ability to work with Superiors, peers, subordinates and others you may interact with
Ability to work independently
Ability to work with a team
Your ability to work under pressure
Not preparing your references may result in your candidacy crashing and burning.
Preparing them well, can give you that extra inch that puts you over the top . . . and pays you better!