Four Tips for Managing Your References

When a recruiter requests your references you should provide a list of “professional” contacts who are well prepared to speak on your behalf.  (It is not necessary for a recruiter to request references during an initial contact with you.  This is a well known tactic of recruitment firms).   Here are some tips on managing your references:

  1. Develop references throughout your career.  We, at DSML Executive Search, fully check references of finalist candidates.  At some time during the selection process, usually just before the client interview, we ask candidates for a list of their references.  We’re looking for the names of former managers and supervisors. Providing us with a list of former colleagues and co-workers isn’t going to cut it.   Neither is an inability to find former managers.  It’s really not that difficult to  reconnect with former managers.
  2. It’s wise to prepare your references for a call from the search consultant by providing them with details on the scope and breath of your background, a copy of your resume (to assist them in recalling your career history and accomplishments), and a detailed understanding of the position you are seeking or the job you are being considered for.  Coaching your references on about your background, accomplishments, strengths and attributes will give them the ammunition and enthusiasm to support your candidacy.  It’s amazing how many references are totally caught off guard when we call them!
  3. Often recruiters will ask references for the name of another person they could talk with who is familiar with your work.  This is a common practice for digging deeper into your work history and performance.  You should ensure that the references on your list can recall a few names of secondary references that they can provide if asked.
  4. If you are in an active job search mode and talking with several recruiters, always alert references each time that you have given out their name and contact information.  Remember to follow-up with those who have vouched for you when a decision is made about the position, with a thank-you, no matter what the outcome.


Doug Seville is co-founder and partner of DSML Executive Search, an equity member firm of the CFR Executive Search Network.



DSML is a member of the CFR Global Executive Search Network, serving customers in offices worldwide.