A supportive word of endorsement or a strong testimonial from a former employer can make or break your chances of landing your target position. But when and how should this kind of feedback be included in your application package?
The Selection Process Happens in Stages
Most employers don't expect references during the first stage of the application process. Hiring mangers typically request a resume and cover letter first, then they whittle down the applicant pool to a manageable number of candidates who can be called in for personal interviews. After these interviews have been conducted, the remaining candidates are often asked to submit references: names and contact information for individuals who can attest to their character and work ethic. Even then, many employers collect this information but don't ultimately use it. Contacting references can require time and company resources, and by this stage in the process, employers have often made up their minds based on other forms of information. Recognize that if your target hiring managers want references, they won't hesitate to let you know.
Sending Unsolicited References: Pitfalls
There are a few reasons NOT to submit references until you've been specifically asked to do so. First and foremost, your contacts may not want their personal information shared with the world at large, especially if this involves posting this information on a company website or public venue.
Second, adding your list of references to your package of application materials can increase the likelihood that your materials will be lost, separated, incorrectly filed, or misinterpreted. Help your potential employers to help you by keeping your package simple and following the directions provided by the job post.
Third, your references may appreciate a heads-up before they're contacted by a specific potential employer. If you limit and control the number of people who receive your list, you'll have an easier time keeping your references in the loop, you'll give them a chance to prepare their statements, and you'll prevent them from being caught off guard by cold-calls from strangers.
Positive Ways to Share Your List
While you may not want to share an unsolicited list of names and phone numbers in your resume text or application package, you can feel free to make this information available in other ways. For example, leverage the endorsement tools on LinkedIn. Use your personal website to post links to your endorsers' public profiles (with their consent). Include non-personal forms of contact information in your resume, like the address of your former employer's HR office or general inbox. And of course, be ready to submit your list of references to your target employers the moment they ask, in any format they request.
For more information on how to select your references, gain their support, and share their positive testimony with your future employers, use the job search tools on MyPerfectResume.