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How to Be a Great Reference for Job Hunters

It's down to the wire. Resumes were reviewed. Interviews were conducted. Thank you cards were received. All the top contenders are great candidates for Company X. But, there's only one position to fill. Let the reference checks begin!

How many times have you been holding your breath, hoping your references will get you over the top?

What happens when you are that hope for someone else?

When a friend asks you to be there reference, you might want to just say, “She's awesome! Hire her.”

Well, don't. That's not what the employer wants, and, it could cost her the job.

Great references are a must for job hunters. Be great by using these tips to validate the strength of her hard skills, soft skills and enthusiasm for the job.

Hard skills

Nothing is more important than having relevant technical skills to do the job because it conveys that one needs minimal training and orientation to hit the ground running. As a reference, take time to review the resume and the job description so you can hone in on whether that is the case.

If you don't know much about the field, call the job candidate or a colleague in the field and discuss with them the day-to-day work of a person in that job. It only takes a few minutes to gather the information that would make it an easy conversation with the employer.

After all, the employer's goal at this point is to confirm a match, not to be convinced of one.

Soft skills

Also known as people skills, soft skills involve managing people, including oneself. These general work characteristics make employees who have job-specific skills even more valuable to the team.

Since proof of people skills doesn't always come through on paper or in an interview, the employer and the job seeker are counting on you to turn the words into a living, breathing, get-the-job-done employee. Your interactions with the candidate can give you instant credibility as to why she is a great person for the job.

Use examples to put relevant people skills into context. For example, you might say, “I have worked with her on three complex projects and no matter how tough it got, she kept the team calm and focused on the priorities. Therefore, we always met timelines and our work products were error-free. To me, that is a sign of a great leader and she was widely recognized for it.”

Enthusiasm for the job

In a tough job market, people tend to apply for jobs even when they aren't excited about them. However, employers want candidates who want the job because they love it, or at least strongly like it.

Get this point across by mentioning what the person has done to prepare herself for such a job. Has she volunteered for assignments, attended training or engaged in professional opportunities?

If you aren't sure, ask the candidate, “What excites you about this job? Why do you think you are a good match for it? What have you done professionally to prepare for this job? How does it connect with your career goals?”

You don't have to spend a lot of time preparing to be a great reference. Just stay focused on information that makes you comfortable enough to have an honest, accurate conversation that will confirm your candidate is the right one for the job.

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