From our Vice President . . .
In January, our President outlined Seven Resume Secrets. In February, I shared Ten Tips for A Standout Cover Letter. Now we conclude this trilogy by illustrating how to choose and prepare your references.
You are a finalist candidate, and the potential employer has asked you to submit your references. Congratulations! Clearly, your experience and skills have carried you this far in the process, so now is the time to complete the interview process with a solid finish. In gymnastics, they call this “sticking the landing.”
Before you submit your references, you must prepare these individuals…and I do not mean scripting them on what to say! A useful reference will state their experience with you and clearly explain where you excel and what professional growth is ahead of you.
Here are a few tips to ensuring that the search concludes smoothly:
- When it is clear you are a finalist, ask your references if they will speak on your behalf.
- Share the job description with your references. Allowing them to see the requirements of the new role will help them reflect on their experience with you and provide specific examples of how you handled a particular situation. Examples help you stand out in the interviewer’s mind.
- Have you told your references to be honest? It is a disservice to you and the future organization if you are hired under false pretenses. If your experience does not match up, or you and the employer are not a good values match, it is best to find out before an offer is extended.
- While it is not appropriate to script your references, you can refresh their memory about successful projects you worked on together so they are able to provide specific examples of your work.
- Have you selected a mix of people who can give a full 360-degree view of your skills? Consider choosing at least one person from each of these categories: your immediate supervisor, a coworker, someone you supervised, a major donor or board member (or client). In each case, it is best if they currently serve in this role, but people from your recent past are acceptable.
- When submitting your references, provide all the methods of contact the reference authorized, and indicate which method is preferred.
- To help facilitate the conversation between the interviewer and your reference, write one or two sentences that describe your relationship. For example, “Susan was my immediate supervisor when I was a Director of Development at XYZ institution. Together we transformed the culture from events-based fundraising to a major gifts model and increased giving from $1M to $1.72M (72%) in two years.”
- You are almost at the finish line. While you wait for the hiring manager to present an offer, prepare a transition plan to present to your supervisor when you are the selected candidate. Tune in next month for transition plan tips…
Wishing you success!