What you say about your references can kill your job search. Many candidates are so focused on the resume and interview preparation that they forget about their references—but they are a critical piece of your job-getting effort.
When you are asked who would be your references, and what would they say about you, don’t ever say, “I think…” As in, “I think my reference will be ___________” or “I hope he will say ________.” That doesn’t sound confident, and it doesn’t even sound like you’ve asked that person. It certainly doesn’t sound like you know what he will say about you.

What will your reference say about you? It won’t help you if your reference says things about how punctual you were or what a hard worker you were. It’s very important that your reference says things that speak directly to what you will be doing on the job you’re interviewing for—those top targeted things that differentiate candidates. How good are you at the things that count? If your job is to sing, we don’t want to hear how well you run.

So what will impress hiring managers?

For sales jobs they want to hear that you:

• Exceeded the plan
• Picked up product knowledge quickly
• Led customers to the decisions we wanted
• Helped other sales reps reach team goals
• Great individual contributor (didn’t need “hand-holding”)
• Always brought the money in at the end of the month

For operations jobs:
• Demand excellence
• Demand quality
• Ran a tight shop
• People were extremely loyal
• Quality results were favorable
• Received letters of commendation

When your reference is called, it’s very clear to recruiters and hiring managers if you haven’t called that person to give them a heads up. If your reference is unprepared, it makes you look unprofessional.

On the other hand, your references can be what tilts the offer in your favor. A reference who’s been kept up to speed on what’s going on and who’s been prepped well for the call makes the candidate look great. All that’s required for prepping your reference is some information about what the hiring manager is looking for and a quick reminder or two of work that you did that speaks to that. This results in a reference who’s enthusiastic and authentic, and can specifically speak about how you are going to benefit your new company.
It will make a huge difference in whether or not you end up with the offer.

Author's Bio: 

Peggy McKee has over 15 years of experience in sales, sales management, sales recruiting, and career coaching. Her website, Career Confidential (http://www.career-confidential.com) is packed with job-landing tips and advice as well as the practical, powerful, innovative tools every job seeker needs to be successful.
Learn more about what it takes to get the job by signing up for Peggy’s free webinar, How to Get a Better Job—Faster! It’s an hour-long class absolutely packed with what you need to be doing in your interview to make a great impression and get the job.