If you’re trying to move your career forward and win a great new marketing job, at some point you’ll probably need to be able to provide professional references to verify your qualifications for the position. This is a crucial point in the recruitment process and one that you need to approach with the utmost care. The people you choose, and the way that you select them, could mean the difference between winning an incredible opportunity or getting looked over to someone who has better references.
When it comes to the recruitment and hiring process, candidates often focus on the more ‘visible’ aspects like resumes and interviews. However, your references can be just as important–perhaps even more so. Marketing recruiters and employers turn to references for a firsthand perspective on:
- Description of past job duties and experience
- A view into your strengths and weaknesses
- Confirmation of job titles and dates of employment listed in resume
- Description of workplace accomplishments
- A sense of how well you fit into a given work environment and culture
- How well you performed in comparison to your peers
This is information that’s difficult to glean from other parts of the recruitment process, and getting additional outsider perspectives helps generate a more accurate and holistic understanding than from just a resume or interview.
That’s why as you move your marketing career forward, it pays to put some extra thought and preparation into who you ask to serve as a reference and how you prepare them to speak for you.
Don’t Wait Until You Need References to Think about Them
As a rule, you should assume that you’re going to need professional references at some time in the future. It’s all but a given if you’re working with a marketing talent agency. So before you’re heavily invested in a job search or hiring procedure, you should start thinking about who you want to turn to.
Ideally, you should have a modest list that includes a mix of current and former bosses, peers, and direct reports, depending on how far along you are in your career path. Usually the best references are those that have actively worked with you “in the trenches” and have seen firsthand how you work on a daily basis and perform when the heat is on.
Be proactive. What you don’t want is a situation where you’ve been asked for references and don’t even know who you’d ask, let alone haven’t begun asking them for permission.
Don’t list just anyone as a reference, even if you had a great working relationship and think they would say good things. Not everyone is well-suited to act as an ambassador for your personal brand.
First, make sure you choose effective communicators. Even someone who would give a glowing review can reflect poorly on you if they struggle to communicate clearly and professionally over the phone. Your references don’t have to be eloquent or talkative to be effective; but they do need to be able to carry on a direct, methodical and professional conversation. If your professional connection has a tendency to ramble or speak inappropriately, consider using someone else.
When providing references, it’s wise to find out specifically what kind of information your marketing talent agency and hiring manager are looking to get. That helps you target your references to paint yourself in the best possible light. For instance, if they want to learn more about your approach to leadership, then you’ll want to direct them toward your current and former subordinates. If they want to know what it’s like to work with you and how you perform on a day-to-day basis, then peers and teammates are usually the best resource. To learn about your ability to develop a marketing strategy or manage an effective campaign, they should probably talk to a manager.
Get Permission, Give a Heads Up
You should always ask permission before listing someone as a reference and passing their information on to a marketing recruiter.
Once you’ve secured that permission, you can help them help you by giving them some heads up when you think they might be contacted, or even go a step further and help arrange the appointment yourself. Getting called out of the blue by a hiring manager asking for references can be jarring, especially if it’s for someone you haven’t worked with in some time.
If you’ve been asked for references, then that’s a good time to re-engage your connections, tell them a little about the roles you’re being considered for, and refresh their memory on your past achievements and projects you worked on together. You might even want to ask them to highlight different strengths and talents so your reference checker doesn’t hear the same stories from every person they call.